Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian Army has released 183 children, formerly involved with Boko Haram, to the Borno State Government and representatives of the United Nations.
The latest number of children, who were involved with the Boko Haram insurgents, and released to the state government makes it 2,000.
The kids with age ranges from seven to 16 were released by the head of the military counter-insurgency in the North East (Commander, Operation Lafiya Dole), Maj. Gen. Rogers Nicholas, representing the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, handing the 183 kids, including eight girls who were used as bomb couriers to officials of the Borno State and United Nations.
The Commissioner for Women Affairs, Hon. Fanta Baba Shehu, represented the state governor, while Ibrahim Sesay stood in for Mr. Edward Kallon, Country Representative of United Nations and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria.
Speaking at the handing over of the children, Nicholas said the decision was taken to hand them over to the Borno State Government and United Nations agencies for proper management of their reintegration.
He said they have been in the custody of the Nigerian Army for sometime, noting that the military has been working with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on similar issues so as to ensure there was no relapse in the cases of the children, that is they did not rejoin the insurgents.
Baba-Shehu, who represented the Borno State, said that they had received about 1,000 plus children in the past.
She expressed the appreciation of the Borno State Government and the people to the military under the current COAS for giving the people of Borno State â€œfree airâ€.
She also said Borno people remained indebted to the UN and its agencies for being there for the state in the time of need.
She promised the newly released kids that they would be looked after and made to get the best during rehabilitation and return home to reunite with their families.
On his part, Sesay said the release was a significant moment and the day was impressive.
â€œThere has been great working relationship between UN system and the Nigerian Army,” Sesay said.
He said with the latest act, the children released is estimated at 2,000, stressing that the UN would work with all stakeholders to ensure the kids are reintegrated back to the society.
He said the transformation process of the kids was long, adding that the release was the first step but providing them with needed tools for reintegration, follows next.
He said there is over 7,000 children in the ongoing reintegration plan of the UN in the area.