The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said more than 3,500 children, have been recruited and used by non-state armed groups in North-East Nigeria since 2013.
The UN organisation said most of the children aged 13 to 17, were recruited by non-state armed groups between 2013 and 2017 and have been used in the ongoing armed conflict in north-east Nigeria.
The communication specialist of UNICEF, Eva Hinds, said this in a statement Friday morning.
Commemorating the fifth anniversary of the 2014 Chibok abduction, the UN children’s agency said these numbers are only those that have been verified, while the true figures are likely to be higher.
According to UNICEF, in addition to these children, 432 children were killed and maimed, 180 were abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in north-east Nigeria in 2018.
UNICEF said non-state armed groups in north-east Nigeria have recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marry, and committed other grave violations against children since 2012.
“Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention,” the organisation said.
“In 2017 and 2018, UNICEF and its partners provided community-based reintegration services to more than 9,800 people formerly associated with armed groups, as well as vulnerable children in communities,” UNICEF said.
The UN organisation said these services help to trace children’s families, return them to their communities, and offer psychosocial support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships, and opportunities to improve livelihoods.
UNICEF also said more than 100 of the abducted Chibok girls remain missing.
Journalists reported how insurgents stormed the Government Secondary School, Chibok, and abducted over 200 girls on April 14, 2014.
Over 100 of the girls were later released through negotiation brokered between the Nigerian government and the terrorists by a third party, including the government of Switzerland.
But the belligerent insurgents re-enacted the Chibok seizure in February when they kidnapped 105 school girls in Dapchi in Yobe State, 75 kilometres south of the border with the Niger Republic.
But the Nigerian government later secured the release of all but one of the Dapchi girls, although five others reportedly lost their lives while being taken away by the terrorists.
The anniversary of the Chibok abduction is marked April 14 yearly.
Similarly, the UNICEF representative, Mohamed Malick said the abduction of Chibok girls is a reminder that widespread abductions of children and grave violations of children’s rights continue to take place in the north-east.
He urged for the protection of children’s rights across the country.
“Children should feel safe at home, in schools and on their playgrounds at all times,” he said.
Mr Malick called on parties to the conflict to fulfil their obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools.
“This is the only way we can begin to make lasting improvements in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria,” he said.