By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The United Nations and the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) on Friday signed an action plan to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict in the North East.
The CJTF, is a youth vigilance group established by the government and people of Borno State at the peak of the Boko Haram insurgency to tackle the militants.
The group, which is made up of volunteers, has been accused alongside the warring Boko Haram sect of recruiting children in the ongoing insurgency in the North East.
In order to set the record straight, the group signed an action plan with the United Nations supervised by the Borno State Deputy Governor, Alhaji Usman Durkwa at the Pinnacle Hotel, Maiduguri In a similar development, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, and UNICEF in Nigeria welcomed the signing of action plan with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria.
In a statement in Maiduguri, the UN said the action on the part of the CJTF, a local group formed in 2013 to support the Nigerian security forces in the fight against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and to protect local communities from attacks by Boko Haram, progressively expanded over the years, is commendable.
The statement read: “In 2016, the CJTF was listed in the annexes of the Secretary-Generalâ€™s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children.
“Following the listing, UNICEF, in its role as Co-chair of the United Nations Country Task Force for the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on grave violations against children, has been working with the group and Nigerian authorities to develop the Action Plan signed today.”
It further said: “Through the Action Plan, the CJTF commits to put in place a number of measures to end and prevent child recruitment and use. Identifying and releasing all children within the groupâ€™s ranks and instructing its members not to recruit or use children in the future are examples of such measures.
“UNICEF and partners will support the Nigerian authorities in providing reintegration services to all children released under the Action Plan.”
â€œWe have seen too many childhoods destroyed by the crisis in the northeast,â€ said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. â€œTodayâ€™s agreement is an important milestone for child protection and paves the way for a brighter future for children caught up in the conflict.â€
â€I congratulate the CJTF and the UN in Nigeria for the signature of this action plan, which brings hope for boys and girls deeply affected by the conflict in northeast Nigeria,â€ the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba said. â€œNow that the Action Plan has been signed, I urge the CJTF to fully implement it in order to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children once and for all. The UN stands ready to support the CJTF in this process,â€ she added.
The action plan was co-signed by the President of the CJTF, Mr. Lawan Jaffar, and the UNICEF Country Representative Mohamed Fall on behalf of the UN Country Task Force, in the presence of the Borno State Deputy Solicitor General, Barrister Abdullahi Hussaini Izge. The SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba signed the Action Plan in New York as a witness.
Representatives from the federal Government of Nigeria and Borno State Government were also present and remain committed to the implementation of the action plan.