UNICEF to educate, train 894 child soldiers released from armed groups in North-East

Not less than 894 child soldiers have been released from the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a local militia group set up to fight insurgency in the Northeastern part of Nigeria.

The United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) said it will work with government and support partners to train the children released from armed groups, and others affected by the ongoing conflict.

UNICEF said the release into the civilian way of life is part of the commitment prevent and end the recruitment and use of children into anti-terror fight.

The CJTF, formed in 2013 is a local militia that helps the Nigerian security forces in the fight against insurgency in north-east.

According to UNICEF, more than 3,500 children were recruited and used by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017.

Others have been abducted, maimed, raped and killed.

UNICEF noted that UN Security Council resolutions 1539 (2004), 1612 (2005), 1882 (2009), 1998 (2011) and 2225 (2015) on Children and Armed Conflict established measures and tools to end grave violations against children.

A news release made available to Tribune Online on Friday said 1,727 children and young people have been released since 2017 when the CJTF signed an action plan committing to putting measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children.

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It also said there has been no new recruitment of children by the CJTF since then.

UNICEF also said the children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes to help them return to civilian life.

The reintegration programme will also help them seize new opportunities for their own development and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria.

Without this support, UNICEF noted that many of the children released from armed groups will struggle to fit into civilian life, as most are not educated and have no vocational skills.

The representative of UNICEF in Nigeria and the Co-chair of United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR), Mohamed Fall, was quoted to have said that children particularly have borne the brunt of insurgency in Nigeria.

“Any commitment for children that is matched with action is a step in the right direction for the protection of children’s rights and must be recognised and encouraged.

“Children of north-east Nigeria have borne the brunt of this conflict. They have been used by armed groups in combatant and non-combatant roles and witnessed death, killing and violence. This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being.

“We cannot give up the fight for the children, as long as children are still affected by the fighting. We will continue until there is no child left in the ranks of all armed groups in Nigeria,” Fall said.

UNICEF noted that the gender and age-appropriate community-based reintegration support interventions will include an initial assessment of their well-being, psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.

Adding that at least 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities, have accessed such services between 2017 and 2018.

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