THE Nigerian military has released from detention 25 children who were once victims of the Boko Haram attack to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Borno State government.
The handing over was done in Maiduguri by Major General Olusegun Adeniyi, Theather Commander of Operations Lafiya Dole on behalf of the military on Thursday, according to an update on the UNICEF Nigeria Twitter account.
The children had been released to be reintegrated into the society after being cleared of ties with Boko Haram insurgents.
“Let me say here that I am handing over 25 children formerly associated with Boko Haram.
“These children have been cleared of any wrongdoing because they were arrested during our operations along with their fathers who are still under investigation,” said Adeniyi.
The military urged the Borno government, UNICEF and other partners to ensure an adequate education for the children.
“So, we are happy for these children but I know Boko Haram criminals are not happy because they could not use them as suicide bombers,” it added.
Receiving the children, UNICEF noted that the children would access reintegration support which includes psychosocial support, education and livelihood skills.
They would be kept at a UNICEF-supported transit centre whilst efforts to reunite them with their families and reintegrate them back to their communities are underway.
The release of the 25 children on Thursday came less than a month the Human Rights Watch published a report stating thousands of children, some as young as five, were still in the military detention for suspected involvement with Boko haram insurgents.
The report released on September 10 recommended to the Nigerian government immediate release of children in military detention who were not charged with a criminal offence in order for rehabilitation, community reintegration and family reunification.
“Nigerian authorities should also immediately release children currently in military custody. If military or intelligence authorities have credible evidence of criminal offences by children, they should transfer them to civilian judicial authorities to be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards. The government should also accelerate efforts to ensure access to education for children affected by the insurgency,” the report stated.