A total of 25 children, 23 boys and two girls, who have had links with Boko Haram, were released by the military to the United Nations Children’s Fund and officials of Borno State Government.
The children, who had been placed under the military’s administrative custody, were released after they had been cleared of ties with armed groups.
The release brings the number of children released this year to 44.
The children whose ages ranged between eight and 15 years and mostly abducted by Boko Haram during attacks on their communities, were forced to work for their abductors in different supportive roles, according to the military.
The head of the military counter-insurgency in the North-East (Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, while handing over the children, noted that some of them escaped from their abductors and found their way to troops’ locations.
He said, “Children associated with insurgency are commonly subjected to abuse and most of them witnessed killings and sexual violence.
“Regardless of how they are recruited and the roles they played, their part ovation bears serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being.
“Therefore, their rehabilitation and reintegration into civilian life is an essential part of our effort in partnership with other stakeholders to help them rebuild their lives.”
Adeniyi added, “The children seated here today have been adequately profiled and their roles with Boko Haram ascertained as supportive and non-violent. Some of them are children whose parents were arrested for terrorist offences and there is no justification to keep them in detention alongside their parents.”
The UNICEF Nigeria Acting Representative, Pernille Ironside, said, “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, have hope of fulfilling their dreams and their human rights.”
She said the children who were being handed over to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, 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.
She said, “They will access medical and psychosocial support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve their livelihoods.”
The Borno State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, who received the children from the military at a ceremony, said they would be given proper care and allowed to get back to school.