Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The Nigerian Military Thursday handed over 28 minors associated with the armed group, Boko Haram, to the Borno State Government and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
The minors, who had been in the custody of the military after they were freed from the terrorist group, are to be taken through the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration process.
The head (Theatre Command) of the military counter-insurgency operation in the North East (Operation Lafiya Dole), Major General Abba Dikko, while handing over the children, said the release followed the decision of the Nigerian military to allow all international standards on Human Rights and other humanitarian laws and to abide by the Rule 28 concerning children or minors associated with armed group.
He said the children released were mostly minors and vulnerable, pledging to continue to show empathy, protect and cater for the children and communities during military operations based on the military’s rules of engagement.
He assured that the military will ensure that people return back to their localities to resettle and also engage in their occupation, while the children are made to go to school to be educated.
The 28 released minors comprise of 24 males and 4 females, with the oldest at 17 years and the youngest at 13 years.
The theatre commander pointed out that it was high time people should embrace peace, go to farm and be resilient.
He said he was impressed with the large size of farmlands cultivated across the north east by the returned IDPs and residents of host communities with the return of relative peace and agricultural activities.
He noted that the children were thoroughly screened and have passed through processes of interrogation and counselling by the military and other security agencies as the law required.
He urged the people to resist all acts of temptation and intimidation from unscrupulous elements in the society who were out to deter the efforts of the military in restoration of peace and protection of integrity of the country.
He appealed to the children to be discipline, obedient, dedicated and committed to the de-radicalization and rehabilitation process as well as the psychological training that will be extended to them by the UNICEF and Borno State Government.
Speaking at the occasion, the UNICEF Borno Chief Field Office, Maiduguri, Mr. Geoffrey Ijumba, said in the last two months, 23 children were released to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to rehabilitate and reintegrate with their families and communities.