The Nigerian Military on Thursday handed over 28 minors associated with the armed group, Boko Haram to Borno State Government and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The minors, who had been in the custody of the military for some time now after they were freed from the terrorist group, are to be taken through the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration process.
The head (Theatre Command) of the military counter-insurgency operation in the North East (Operation Lafiya Dole), Major General Abba Dikko, while handing over the children, said the release followed the decision of the Nigerian military to allow all international standards on Human Rights and other humanitarian laws and to abide by the Rule 28 as concerning children or minors associated with armed group.
He said the children released were mostly minors and vulnerable, pledging to continue to show empathy, protect and cater for the children and communities during military operations based on the military’s rules of engagement.
He assured that the military would ensure that people return back to their localities to resettle and also engage in their occupation, while the children are made to go to school to be educated.
The 28 released minors comprise of 24 males and 4 females, with the oldest at 17 years and the youngest at 13 years.
The theatre commander pointed out that it was high time people should embrace peace, go to farm and be resilient.
He said he was impressed with the large size of farmlands cultivated across the northeast by the returned IDPs and residents of host communities with the return of relative peace and agricultural activities.
He noted that the children were thoroughly screened and have passed through processes of interrogation and counselling by the military and other security agencies as the law required.
He urged the people to resist all acts of temptation and intimidation from unscrupulous elements in the society who were out to deter the efforts of the military in restoration of peace and protection of integrity of the country.
He appealed to the children to be discipline, obedient, dedicated and committed to the de-radicalization and rehabilitation process as well as the psychological training that will be extended to them by the UNICEF and Borno State Government.
Speaking at the occasion, the UNICEF Borno Chief Field Office Maiduguri, Mr. Geoffrey Ijumba said in the last two months, 23 children were released to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to rehabilitate and reintegrate with their families and communities.
“Today, another 28 children were released showing the commitment of the military adhering with the international humanitarian law and ensuring protection of the innocent children caught up in the Boko Haram conflict.”
Ijumba assured that UNICEF will continue to work with the military and other authorities to support the reintegration of all children released until there are no more children in protective custody, stressing that UNICEF remained committed to working with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and all other partners to provide all children released with medical attention and psychological support before the process of reuniting them with their families and reintegrating them into the society begins.
Geoffrey disclosed that out of the 338 children released by the military this year, 2018, 175 were girls and 268 were boys and more than 385 children have been reunited with their families and are on the oath towards starting a better life while noting that UNICEF will continue to support the ministry to identify alternative care arrangements for the children who can not return home because of difficulties in family tracing or projection concerns.
The Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Hauwa Mai Musa who represented the Borno state Government thanked the Nigerian military for its efforts and sacrifices as well as UNICEF for its support to the children and other vulnerable in the society globally.
She assured that government will continue to support and cater for the children with all the basic needs and facilities.