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UNICEF says 894 children released from local militia in Maiduguri

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Friday said that no fewer than 894 children, including 106 girls, have been released from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri.

Mohamed Fall, the UNICEF Country Representative disclosed this in a statement issued in Abuja that the figure amounted to 1, 700 as the number of children released from 2017 till date.

Fall, also the Co-Chair of UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Child Rights Violations (CTFMR) described the efforts as part of the organisation’s commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.

Fall described CJTF as a local militia that helped the Nigerian security forces in the fight against insurgency in North-Eastern, adding that it was formed in 2013 with the aim of protecting communities from attack.

“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.

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“This participation in the conflict has had serious implications for their physical and emotional well-being,” he said.

Fall said that since September 2017, when the CJTF signed, an action plan committing to put measures in place to end and prevent recruitment and use of children, 1,727 children and young people had been released.

According to him, since then, there has been no new recruitment of children by the CJTF.

“The children and young people released today will benefit from reintegration programmes, to help them return to civilian life; seize new opportunities for their own development and contribute to bringing lasting peace in Nigeria, as productive citizens of their country.

Fall said that without this support, many of the children released from armed groups struggle to fit into civilian life; as most of them are not educated and have no vocational skills.

“In the ongoing armed conflict in the North-East of Nigeria, 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.

“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.

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The UNICEF representative assured that the organisation would continue to work closely with state authorities and partners, to support the implementation of reintegration programmes for all children released from armed groups, as well as others affected by the ongoing conflict.

He identified the gender and age-appropriate community-based reintegration support interventions, to include an initial assessment of their well-being, psycho-social support, education, vocational training, informal apprenticeships and opportunities to improve livelihoods.(NAN)

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