As the Federal Government continues its war against terrorism in Nigeria, a new report, “Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict”, has accused the Civilian Joint Task Force, JTF and the Boko Haram sect of using children to fight each other.
According to the report published in New York, United States at the weekend, “Children as young as 13 are being recruited by both sides of the conflict and have nowhere to turn”.
The report added that the Islamist sect has subjected boys and girls to forced recruitment, detention, attacks at school, abductions, rape, and other forms of sexual violence.
The 64-page report stated that the gravity and scale of violations perpetrated by both the Civilian JTF and the Boko Haram warrant urgent action from the Federal Government, the United Nations, and other child protection actors.
The report titled “Who Will Care for Us?” reveals grave violations by some parties to the conflict since December 2012 and recommends how to protect Nigerian children.
“While the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno State, has shed some light on how children are affected by the conflict in the northeast, most abuses are still poorly documented, understood, and addressed by key actors,” Janine Morna, Researcher at Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, stated in the report.
The report added that security forces who encounter child soldiers in Boko Haram’s ranks often detain these children in unofficial military detention facilities known for the mistreatment of detainees, instead of protecting and rehabilitating them, in accordance with international standards.
“The government of Nigeria should denounce the recruitment of children by all armed groups, take immediate steps to release child soldiers in their custody, and develop procedures to transfer child soldiers to civilian actors,” said Morna.
READ ALSO: Nigerians Will Hear From Us Soon – Boko Haram
According to a media survey conducted by Watchlist, attacks on schools in northern region has resulted in the death, injury, or abduction of at least 414 students, teachers, or other civilians on school premises between January 2012 and July 2014.
Morna stated that : “Continuous attacks on schools have devastated education in the region, creating a climate of fear for students and teachers, and leading to school closures from as early as April 2013. Relevant actors must bolster school security through programmes like the Safe Schools Initiative.”
Some of the documented abductions of boys and girls by Boko Haram, according to Watchlist, included Christian girls who were forced to convert to Islam and coerced into marrying members of the group, along with other female abducts.
“The humanitarian response to violations against children has been slow, fragmented, and unable to meet the fast-growing needs of those affected by the conflict,” said Morna. Few international actors currently engage in the northeast, leaving the government and local groups, with limited capacity, to support survivors. “The Nigerian Government, United Nations, and non-governmental agencies must take urgent steps to recruit experts with experience operating in a conflict situation and scale up programming to support some of Nigeria’s most vulnerable and marginalized children,” said Morna.
The report also recounted horrific tales from child-victims of both Boko Haram and the Civilian JTF.
In two cases cited by Watchlist, members of Boko Haram took advantage of an opportunity to rape their abductees when either the commanding officer was away or when the woman or girl was alone and vulnerable.
READ ALSO: Adamawa University Shut Down Oover Boko Haram
According to the report, women and girls sometimes escape from Boko Haram camps but often lack sufficient support, counseling, and health services when they return home. It added that many of the interviewees were traumatized by their experiences.
“Immediately I left this place (the camp), it made me insane,” one woman told Watchlist, while another said, “When I remember, I normally cry.”
The report concluded by stating that, “while the government and other partners are providing some support to the families of the abducted Chibok girls, as well as the girls who escaped, it is unclear to what extent other survivors of abduction and sexual violence can access such services.”
No fewer than 650,000 are believed to have been displaced in northern Nigeria due to terror attacks carried out by Boko Haram insurgents.
President Goodluck Jonthan is expected to meet with Chadian President Idriss Debyleave in Ndjamena, today, Monday, 8 September, 2014, in a bid to forge a stronger alliance against terrorism and violent extremism.