The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday said it had supported the rehabilitation and reintegration of 2,474 children, cleared of links with Non State Armed Groups (NSGOs), in Borno in the past two years.
Ms Gillian Walker, the UNICEF Representative (D) Field Office in Maiduguri, made the disclosure at the handover ceremony of 25 children cleared of links with armed conflict, at the Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri.
Walker disclosed that the UN agency in collaboration with the International Organization of Migration (IMO) and Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs had provided shelter, protection, psycho-social and other lifesaving services to the children since inception of the programme in 2017.
He said that 1,627 of the 2,474 children cleared of association with armed groups had been reintegrated with their families and communities.
Walker said that: “Although, we have made progress for the successful reintegration of children cleared of association with armed groups, a lot still need to be done.
“There are still children in the ranks and file of armed groups. Children should belong with their families.
“We call on all parties in the conflict to stop recruiting and using children in any role. We will continue until there are no children being used in the conflict,” she said.
Walker lauded the Nigerian Army and Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs for their support to the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of the cleared children in line with the International Humanitarian Law and handover protocol.
“UNICEF encourages Government of Nigeria to sign and adopt the handover protocol of children released from administration detention to ensure that all children who have been recruited, used and cleared of association can start fulfilling their dreams and aspirations,” she added.
Commenting on the handover of the 25 children, Brig.-Gen. Parisa Alamba, the Intelligence Coordinator, Theater Command, Operation Lafiya Dole (OPLD), revealed that the children comprised of 23 males and two females.
Alamba said that the children aged between 8 years and 15 years, were abducted and forcefully conscripted by the insurgents when they attacked their communities.
He explained that some of the affected children escaped from their captors while others were rescued by the military.
Also, Maj.-Gen. Olusegun Adeniyi, the Theater Commander of the OPLD, said that rehabilitation of the children with link to armed groups was an integral part of efforts to end insurgency and restore peace to the North East.
Adeniyi called on the UNICEF and Borno state government to ensure proper rehabilitation of the released children and adopt effective monitoring mechanism on them.
While commending the UNICEF over the initiative, Adeniyi reiterated the commitments of the Nigerian Army to free persons under the insurgents’ captivity and restore peace to the region.
Also speaking, Ms Zuwaira Gambo, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, said the ministry was partnering with the UNICEF and other development organisations to ensure effective rehabilitation and reintegration of the cleared children.
Gambo noted that of the 1,627 rehabilitated children, 614 were females and 988 males.
She called on communities to support the children to enable them to fully reintegrate into the society so as realise their potentials for positive development. (NAN)
Edited by Ismail Abdulaziz
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