North-East still nightmare for children, 9 years after Chibok — UNICEF

NINE years after Boko Haram terrorists abducted 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has lamented the continued violations of children’s rights in the north-eastern region of Nigeria.

On the night of April 14, 2014, the adolescent school girls were kidnapped by the Islamic terrorist group from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, a small town in Borno State.

Marking nine years since the attack on Friday, April 14, UNICEF said “the statistics are disturbing, the reality is devastating” for children in the region.


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This was disclosed in a statement by UNICEF representative, Christian Munduate, on Friday.

“It has been nine years since the horrendous abduction of the Chibok girls, yet the nightmare continues as children are still being kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured – their futures torn away.

“Nine years after 276 schoolgirls were abducted in the middle of the night from their dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria, 96 girls remain in captivity, and thousands more children have been subjected to grave violations of their rights,” the statement said.

UNICEF noted that children are still being kidnapped in Nigeria’s North-East.

“As recently as 7 April 2023, 80 children were reportedly abducted by militants in Zamfara State’s Tsafe Local Government Area according to local media.

“Since 2014, there have been over 2,400 incidents of grave violations verified, affecting over 6,800 children in the North-East.”

The UN agency further observed that the most common violations are recruitment or use of children by armed groups “with 700 verified cases, followed by abductions of children, with 693 incidents, and killing and maiming, with 675 incidents”.

“This reinforces the urgent need for action to protect children in Nigeria” the statement added.

#Bringbackourgirls campaign and Buhari’s failed promise

The abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls triggered the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, launched by a group of citizens advocating for the rescue of the schoolgirls.

According to the group, the last report on the status of the Chibok Girls in October 2022 showed that 107 victims have been released by the terrorists, while 57 girls escaped from their den. The military rescued 16 while 96 are still missing.

While the abduction of the Chibok schoolchildren gained international attention, there are other schoolchildren missing whose parents’ hope of meeting them again seems bleak.

On February 19, 2018, more than 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Dapchi Town, Yobe State by the terror group, Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Although, a substantial number of the schoolchildren reportedly re-appeared,  the whereabouts of others are unknown with little or no reports about them.

Among the Dapchi Schoolgirls is Leah Sharibu, a 16-year-old Christian, who is held captive by the terrorists.

President Muhammadu Buhari whose administration ends in May 29th, had on several occasions promised to ensure the release of Leah Sharibu and other children still in captivity.

Leah Sharibu

Buhari acknowledged that it was the promise of securing the release of the children “that made the people of Chibok vote for him overwhelmingly” in the February 2019 presidential election, where he was reelected, according to statement by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu.

“On Leah Sharibu’s abduction, the interlocutors have reported encouraging progress so far” the statement said in 2019.

With just few weeks to the end of his administration, Sharibu is yet to be reunited with her family as at the time of filing this report.

Impact on education alarming

In the April 14 statement released to mark 9 years of the Chibok abduction, UNICEF noted that the impact of terrorism on education in the North-East is alarming.






     

     

    While calling on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law that protect the rights and well-being of children, the body observed that the conflict “has repercussions that will likely affect generations”.

    The statement recalled a report by The Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria which said “between 2009 and 2022, around 2,295 teachers were reportedly killed in attacks, over 19,000 teachers displaced, more than 1,500 schools closed because of insecurity, and 910 schools were destroyed”.

    Christian Munduate

    The statement released by UNICEF representative Mundaute reaffirmed the signing of the UNICEF-supported handover protocol and commitment to invest N144.8 billion ($314.5 million) towards the Safe Schools Financing Plan in Nigeria in 2022.

    “We stand ready to support the Government in its implementation to ensure that all children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria or released from armed groups are quickly reunited with their families and benefit from reintegration programmes”, the statement added.

    Sinafi Omanga is a journalist with The ICIR. His Twitter handle is @OmangaSinafi and Email: [email protected]

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