By Cecilia Ologunagba
New York, April 14, 2023
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has described as a “nightmare” the plight of 96 out of 276 Chibok girls, abducted by Boko Haram militants from their dormitory in Northeast Nigeria, who are still in captivity after nine years.
The “Chibok girls” were kidnapped on the night of April 14, 2014, sparking worldwide condemnation and concern.
The UN children’s agency, in a statement on Friday, said conflict in that part of Nigeria had continued to affect girls and boys.
Meanwhile, thousands more girls and boys have been subjected to grave violations amid ongoing conflict in the region, UNICEF added, underscoring the need to protect children in Nigeria.
As recently as April 7, 2023, some 80 children were abducted by militants in the Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State, the UN agency said, citing local media.
Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, says the “nightmare” continues today as many children are still being kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Nigeria’s children. We must do everything in our power to ensure they grow up in safety, with access to education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential,” he said.
Since 2014, there have been over 2,400 verified incidents of grave violations affecting 6,800 children in northeast Nigeria, UNICEF reported.
The most common concern, it said, is recruitment by armed groups, followed by abductions, and killing and maiming.
The conflict has had an alarming impact on education, and UNICEF warned that the repercussions would likely affect generations.
Between 2009 and 2022, roughly 2,295 teachers were reportedly killed in attacks, and more than 19,000 were displaced, according to the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TCN).
Additionally, more than 1,500 schools were closed, and 910 were destroyed, due to insecurity.
UNICEF has welcomed the government’s signing of an agency-supported protocol on the handover of children encountered in the course of armed conflict, as well as its commitment to invest more than 314 million dollars towards a financing plan on school safety.
The handover protocol signed last September, aims to prevent or reduce the detention of children encountered by military and security forces.
Under the agreement, children allegedly associated with armed groups will be transferred to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development within a period of seven days.
UNICEF called on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law, and to protect the rights and well-being of children.