The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has lauded the removal of the Civilian Joint Task Force, CJTF, from UN Secretary-General’s report as one of the armed groups recruiting children.
The CJTF is a composition of local hunters mobilized by the Borno Government. They are provided arms to assist the military in the fight against insurgency.
A statement by UNICEF on Monday, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria by its Communication Officer, UNICEF Maiduguri Field Office, Folashade Adebayo said the measure is a step forward in child protection.
“UNICEF today said the delisting of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) from the United Nations Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict as one of the armed groups recruiting and using children in north-east Nigeria is one step forward for child protection.
“In his latest report, released this year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres credited the delisting to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF and the armed group’s commitment to the implementation of an Action Plan it signed with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) in 2017 to stop the recruitment and use of children.
“Formed in 2013 with the aim of supporting efforts of the Nigerian military to protect communities from Boko Haram attacks, the CJTF expanded in size and influence in the region.
“At the height of its operations in 2016, the group was listed in the annexes of the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children.
“Since signing the 2017 Action Plan, however, the CJTF has released more than 2,000 children from its ranks, with many of the children enrolled in schools and provided with psychosocial support by UNICEF.”
The statement observed that between 2013 and 2020, about 3,500 children had been recruited by parties involved in the north east conflicts as combatants such as spies, suicide bombers, labourers, cooks, wives and messengers.
“Children used as soldiers are at a great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat.
“They are forced to witness or participate in tortures and killings, triggering lifelong physical and mental health challenges.
“Similarly, they are denied access to education, nutrition and conducive living conditions, among other grave violations of their rights,” the statement noted.
The statement quoted Phuong Nguyen, the Head of UNICEF Maiduguri Field Office, as saying that the it’s a welcome development that represented the first step in a long journey.
Nguyen urged the leadership of the CJTF to establish child protection units across its offices to prevent future recruitment and use of children.
“Recruiting children into armed groups steals their innocence and the protection they need.
“We should not forget – deploying children as soldiers imperils peace and perpetuates the cycle of generational violence.
“I call on other armed groups and parties to the conflict to immediately stop the recruitment of children and safely reintegrate them with their families and communities, where they belong,’’ Nguyen said.