By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) on Friday stated that since 2013, more than 1,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria.
It said this number also included 276 girls taken from their secondary school in Borno State town of Chibok in 2014.
UNICEF said in a statement in Abuja that four years on from that tragic incident, more than 100 of the â€˜Chibok girlsâ€™ have yet to be returned to their families. It also called for their release.
â€œThe four-year anniversary of the Chibok abduction reminds us that children in north-eastern Nigeria continue to come under attack at a shocking scale,â€ said UNICEF representative in Nigeria, Mohamed Malick Fall.
Fall added: â€œThey are consistently targeted and exposed to brutal violence in their homes, schools and public places.â€
The UN agency said the recent attack on a school in Dapchi in which five girls lost their lives was just the latest indication that there are few safe spaces left for children in the North-east, adding that schools are not even spared from violence.
â€œThese repeated attacks against children in schools are unconscionable,â€ said Fall, who added that: â€œChildren have the right to education and protection, and the classroom must be a place where they are safe from harm.â€
The UNICEF explained that since the conflict started in northeastern Nigeria nearly nine years ago, at least 2,295 teachers have been killed and more than 1,400 schools have been destroyed. It said most of these schools have not reopened because of extensive damage or the ongoing insecurity.
It said Nigerian authorities have made a commitment to make schools safer and more resilient to attack, and that it stands with them to implement the Safe Schools Declaration, by which Nigeria commits to protecting schools and universities from violence and military use during armed conflict.
â€œUNICEF is appealing for an end to attacks on schools and all grave violations of childrenâ€™s rights,â€ the statement added.