For releasing over two thousand children from their ranks and reuniting them with their families, the Civilian Joint Taskforce has been delisted from the group of organisations recruiting and using children in armed conflicts in the North-East.
This, according to UNICEF in a statement signed by Phuong Nguyen, the chief of Maiduguri field office on Monday, is one step forward for the protection of children in the subregion that has been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency in the past twelve years.
In a report recently released by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the delisting is as a result of continued deradicalisation of children and increased number of enrollment of these children into schools since the action plan was signed into law in 2017.
“The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres credited the delisting to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF and the armed group’s commitment to the implementation of an Action Plan it signed with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) in 2017 to stop the recruitment and use of children,” the statement read.
At the height of its operations in 2016, the CJTF was listed in the annexes of the Secretary- General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict. But since signing the 2017 Action Plan, the group has released more than 2,000 children from its ranks, with many of the children enrolled in school and provided with psychosocial support.
“Children have borne the brunt of the protracted conflict in North-East Nigeria with at least 3,500 young children recruited by parties to the conflict as combatants between 2013 and 2020. Girls and boys have been used as suicide bombers, spies, labourers, cooks, messengers and wives. Girls recruited by armed groups often suffer gender-based violence, including rape.
“Children used as soldiers are at great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat. They are forced to witness or participate in tortures and killings, triggering lifelong physical and mental health challenges,” the statement said.
Nguyen went further in stating that children have been denied access to education, nutrition and conducive living conditions, among other grave violations of their rights.
The chief operating officer urged the leadership of the CJTF to establish child protection units across its offices to prevent future recruitment and use of children and consistently model its agreement to not use children for any kind of role.