Thursday, October 3, 2019 6:52 pm
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday that it had secured the release of 23 boys and two girls from the Nigerian Army administrative custody.
UNICEF said this was after they had been cleared of suspected ties with some illegal armed groups.
UNICEF’s Nigeria Acting Representative, Mr Pernille Ironside, disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos.
He said in a statement that this had brought the numbers of children released this year to 44.
“These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, health-care, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment.
“UNICEF will continue working to ensure that all conflict affected children are reunited with their families, and given hope of fulfilling their dreams and their human rights,” he said.
Ironside said that the children had been handed over to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
He said that the children would be kept at a UNICEF supported transit centre while efforts to reunite them with their families and reintegrate them back to their communities were underway.
According to him, they will access medical and psycho-social supports, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve their livelihoods.
“We have made progress, but we will like to see all children suspected of involvement with armed groups, transferred out of military custody to the care of the relevant local authorities as quickly as possible.
“This is to facilitate their return to their families and communities, spending minimal, if any, time in detention.
“As we commemorate the 30th Anniversary for the Convention of the Rights of the Child this year, we must collectively commit to do more for the protection, well-being and development of children in Nigeria.
“This will include ensuring that they are not recruited or used in conflicts in the first place,” he said.
The representative said since 2016, a total of 2,499 people including 1,627 children had been cleared of association with non-state armed groups.
He said that UNICEF and its partners would continue to provide age and gender appropriate community-based reintegration support services to all affected children.
He also said that such support services would be extended to other vulnerable children in communities that were at the risk of being recruited by armed groups.