By Dauda Iliya
The United Nations Children Fund UNICEF has call for an end to the recruitment and use of children by armed groups in Nigeria.
The Organisation also request the release of those in the custody of such groups extend support for former child soldiers in north-east Nigeria.
In a statement, UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office Phuong Nguyen called on the Nigerian authorities to sign the Handover Protocol for children encountered in the course of armed conflict in the country and the Lake Chad Basin Region, which would end the detention of children formerly associated with armed groups.
The call is made on the occasion of International Day Against the Use of Child Soldiers, otherwise known as “Red Hand Day”.
“We call for an immediate end to the recruitment and use of innocent children as soldiers or for any other conflict-related role, It is unacceptable and unconscionable that girls and boys continue to serve on the frontlines of a conflict they did not start.” Nguyen said.
The statement adds that Handover Protocol would ensure children encountered during military and security operations are transferred from military custody to civilian child protection actors to support their reintegration into society through the provision of family tracing and reunification services and medical services.
According to the UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Borno State Child Protection Act, recently signed into law by Governor Babagana Umara Zulum, prohibits and prescribes stiff penalties for the violation of children’s rights.
The adds that nearly one million homes and 5,000 classrooms have been razed in the protracted armed conflict. Since 2009, more than 8,000 girls and boys have been recruited and used as child soldiers in different roles by armed groups.
“We must do more to ensure that Nigeria’s children do not suffer the worst impacts of conflict,” said Phuong T. Nguyen.
The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict also prohibits the forced recruitment or conscription of children under 18 by government forces, and the participation of children under 18 in active hostilities by any party.