Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Defence Headquarters said its Operation Safe Corridor Thursday handed over 86 Boko Haram terrorists child fighters to the Borno State government.
Director Defence information Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu, who made this known in a statement, said that the 86 Boko Haram child fighters who voluntarily surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole were taken to the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulumkutu.
Nwachuku said the repentant child fighters would undergo comprehensive Child Care Programme sponsored and organized by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
The Defence spokesmen in the statement said: “In an effort to ensure that minors and other repentant Boko Haram fighters in the North East are given the necessary support and opportunity to embrace peace through the auspices of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), the outfit has handed over 86 Boko Haram child fighters who voluntarily surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole to the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulumkutu.
“Following the handover, the repentant child fighters would undergo comprehensive Child Care Programme sponsored and organized by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in conjunction with Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
“The child fighters who are between ages 10 19 are part of over 1,370 Boko Haram fighters who have so far surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole. After a thorough profiling and screening, the minors were considered suitable for the 6 months De-radicalization, Rehabilitation and Re-integration (DRR) programme.
“Arrangement is also ongoing to transfer another set of 500 repentant insurgents to Operation Safe Corridor for DRR Programme.
“The handover ceremony was witnessed by the Borno State Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo and UNICEF Official, Mr Clement Adams. The duo congratulated the surrenderers for laying down their arms and urged them to take advantage of the DRR programme to turn a new leaf and abandon the senseless struggle.
“Operation Safe Corridor is a Defence Headquarters led non-kinetic multi-national and multi-agency humanitarian operation conducted in tandem with extant international humanitarian laws to encourage willing and repentant Boko Haram terrorists in the North East to shun violent extremism. The operation is designed to also de-radicalize, rehabilitate and re-integrate repentant Boko Haram combatants who willingly surrender to troops. The scheme is a global model that enjoys collaboration and support from local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as Multi-national Organisations, such as, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DFID), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and North East Regional Initiative (NERI).
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) wishes to use this medium to call on willing Boko Haram fighters to abandon the futile struggle and surrender to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole. Those who voluntarily surrender to troops are guaranteed of safety and will benefit from the Operation Safe Corridor de-radicalization, rehabilitation and re-integration programme. The AFN is further committed to its strict adherence to the rules of engagement and other extant laws especially as it relates to minors in conflict situations”.