from AHMED OBAFEMI in Maiduguri, Nigeria
MAIDUGURI, (CAJ News) – THE Nigerian Army has released from custody 223 children detained for alleged links with the Boko Haram.
Among those released from the Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison are ten girls.
Some of the children had been missing for up to five years, with many presumed dead by their families.
“The release of these children is a huge step forward and one to be welcomed and celebrated,” said Peter Hawkins, the representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria.
“These children deserve to have a normal childhood. They and now require our full care and support to re-enter the lives that were so brutally interrupted by this devastating conflict,” the UN envoy added.
The children have been released to the custody of the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, UNICEF and authorities in the state capital, Maiduguri.
The minors will now immediately enter a programme to help them reintegrate into their communities and re-engage with their families.
This brings to 3 559 people released after being cleared for association with armed groups in Nigeria.
A total of 1 743 children have been released, including 618 girls.
Now in its tenth year, the conflict in north-east Nigeria continues to uproot and devastate the lives of thousands of children in the West African country.
Children are victims of forced recruitment to the Boko Haram and used as so-called suicide bombers.
The Islamists militants have also kidnapped scores of children during raids at schools.
Overall, more than 30 000 people have been killed during Boko Haram’s attempts to overthrow the government while an estimated three million others were displaced.
– CAJ News