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The United Nations has negotiated the release of nearly 900 children
detained Nigeria’s army and security forces. According
to Unicef’s regional director
for Western and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, who disclosed this
after visiting Borno State, the 876 children had been held in the
barracks in Maiduguri.


It was not immediately clear how long they had
been held, but the
army routinely detains civilians who have been living in areas that had
been ruled the insurgents on suspicion that they too might be linked
to militant activities. (Fontaine is pictured above with displaced girls in
Maiduguri, many of them are in school for the first time)
However, rights groups say there is no proper legal process for such
civilians, including the children, since they do not get formally
charged and some end up in so-called rehabilitation centres, which the
groups say are like prisons. The United Nations says children should not be detained.
“We fear that there are still kids who are being at least temporarily
detained because they are being released from Boko Haram areas the
army but then kept for a while,” Fontaine told reporters telephone.
He gave no details of the ages of the children or how long they had
been at the barracks, but after President Muhammadu Buhari came to power
in May 2015, security forces began an offensive — backed by
neighbouring countries — to retake territory from Boko Haram, meaning
at least some of the children could have been held for a year or more.
Nigerian army officials say they
need to question civilians to establish whether they have any ties with
the militant group, which has been trying for seven years to set up an
Islamic state.
Fontaine also said the conflict, which has killed thousands and
displaced more than two million, had separated around 20,000 children
from their parents, of which 5,000 had since been reunited with their
“Once we get children out, there is a major issue of stigmatisation
in the communities,” Fontaine said. “There is a sense that children who
have been associated with Boko Haram for a while could be, and in some
cases we have some evidence, are rejected the community and people
around them.”
was also a problem for the girls recently freed from Chibok, he added.
Nigeria this month negotiated, with the help of Switzerland,
the release of 21 of over 200 school girls kidnapped Boko Haram in
Source: Reuters and L.Ikeji


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