|Fred Ezeh, Abuja
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), disclosed on Friday that more than 3,500 children, most of whom were aged between 13 and 17, were forcefully recruited by non-state- armed groups between 2013 and 2017, for use in the ongoing armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria.
It said in addition, no fewer than 432 children were killed and maimed,180 abducted, and 43 girls were sexually abused in the region in 2018.
The UN children’s agency said that the numbers were only those that had been verified, adding that the true figures were likely to be higher.
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mohammed, Malick Fall, disclosed the information in a statement released in Abuja, to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Chibok girls’ abduction.
He said that since 2012, non-state- armed groups in north-eastern Nigeria had recruited and used children as combatants and non-combatants, raped and forced girls to marriage, in addition to other grave violations against children.
He called on all parties to the conflict to respect the obligations under international law to end violations against children and to stop targeting civilian infrastructure, including schools.
He said: “This is the only way we can begin to make a lasting improvement in the lives of children in this devastated part of Nigeria.”
He renewed the commitment of UNICEF to Nigeria’s efforts to protect its children.
He confirmed that UNICEF enjoys a good partnership with the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and other partners to support children who have been rescued or escaped from captivity.