The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says it is addressing the situation of children recruited and exploited by terrorist groups in the North-East.
Mr Sylvester Atere, National Project Officer, Outreach and Communications, UNODC Nigeria, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday, July 7, 2019 in Abuja.
He said that a workshop was organised under the EU, Nigeria, UNODC and Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) Partnership Project, adding that the programme was being funded by the European Union.
According to him, rehabilitating and reintegrating of the children poses significant challenges, not only in view of their number, but also due to the intense and lasting traumatic effects.
“It is estimated that Boko Haram and ISWAP since 2009 have recruited about 8,000 children.
“Due to the difficulties associated with collecting reliable data it is likely that these figures are underestimated.
“In 2014, the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok attracted international attention, unmasking the brutality and disregard these groups hold against children.
“Armed groups in the north-east have been recruiting and using children as combatants and non-combatants, raping and forcing girls to marry, and committing other grave violations against children.
“Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention.
“2017 report by UNICEF found that the use of children to carry out suicide attacks had become a defining feature of the conflict,” he said.
Atere said that UNODC gathered relevant stakeholders which includes; Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA), Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
Also, representative of the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, Federal High Court, National Human Rights Commission, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria,
Others are Presidential Committee on the North- East Initiative, prosecutors, social workers, civil society organisations, as well as UNICEF, OHCHR, IOM.
Atere said that the consultation was aimed to identify priorities in the areas of prevention, reintegration, justice and to foster a multi-disciplinary coordination in addressing these pressing challenges.
He disclosed that UNODC has introduced the training package, UNODC Handbook and Roadmap on the treatment of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups.
He said that participants at the workshop have discussed gaps in the current preventative framework, needs to improve coherence and effectiveness of rehabilitation and reintegration efforts, as well as necessities for specialised training on the protection of children in a counter-terrorism context.
According to him, national authorities have asserted their renewed commitment to addressing this phenomenon and guaranteeing children’s rights.
He stated that UNODC has reiterated its readiness to support Nigeria in pursuing the complementary objectives of preserving public safety and protecting children.
“UNODC has been providing technical assistance since 2015, through its Global Programme to end Violence against Children and to support the efforts of over 30 Member States in different regions of the world addressing this urgent and complex phenomenon,” he said.
By Uche Bibilari