Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, pledged the commitment of his government to secure the freedom of all children and other victims of abduction by terrorists in the country.
At a high -level breakfast dialogue held on the margins of the ongoing 33rd summit of the African Union (AU), the president assured Nigerians and the international community of the renewed commitment of the federal government to freeing the children.
The president spoke on the theme of the dialogue, “Stop the War on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts, Dividend of Silencing the Guns,’’co-sponsored by the governments of Nigeria, Uganda, Norway, and the AU Commission and Save the Children.
He recalled the freedom of some Chibok and Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram and commended the support of the MultiNational Joint Task Force and the partners for the reintegration of the girls.
‘’A number of school girls from Chibok and Dapchi earlier abducted by Boko Haram have regained their freedom.
‘’We commend the gallant efforts of the MultiNational Joint Task Force and the partners in supporting the reintegration of the girls.
‘’Let me categorically reassure you of the steadfast commitment of the Government of Nigeria to ensure the freedom of all kidnapped children from the shackles of Boko Haram.
‘’We will not relent until every child, boy, or girl, every Nigerian adult in custody of Boko Haram, is freed,” he said.
A statement by presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari “urged African countries and other stakeholders on the continent to work fervently towards strengthening the protection of children from six grave violations that occur during armed conflict.
He listed the six grave violations as killing and maiming of children, recruitment or use of children as soldiers, sexual violence against children, abduction of children, attacks against schools or hospitals and denial of humanitarian access to children.
Buhari, according to the statement, expressed concern that these grave violations against children have continued unabated, pointing out that theFederal Government of Nigeria has always condemned the activities of Boko Haram and Islamic State of West Africa.
‘’It is for this reason that the Nigerian government has severally condemned, and is combating frontally the dreadful activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.
‘’Of course, the severity of these grave violations varies from country to country.
‘’The incidence of a single violation of children rights in any country is an indelible dent on the African consciousness and is to be deplored and condemned,’’ he said.
The president reminded the member states of AU of their commitments to protecting children affected by armed conflicts in Africa. He also reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to the protection of children in armed conflict zones.
He also used the occasion to outline some concrete measures taken by Nigeria towards tackling the root causes of child soldiers and the misfortune of out-of-school children.‘’To stem the tide of out-of-school children Nigeria embarked on an all-inclusive reconstruction of schools vandalized by the ravaging terrorist activities of Boko Haram, while returning children are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
‘’Our Nomadic Education policy is also being implemented to reduce the number of out-of-school children. We have also prioritized de-radicalisation and demobilisation of ex-combatant children of Boko Haram insurgents,’’ Buhari said.
Buhari appealed to the AU Peace and Security Council to energetically champion the strategy to stop the war against children and adopt what he described as Child Protection Architecture within the African Peace and Security Architecture and the Roadmap on Silencing the Guns.
‘’The call to action is now for accountability by all African states to the rights of the children caught up in wars.
‘’Let us stop the war on children. This is a wake-up call for us all to create the enabling environment for rooting out the impact of armed conflicts against our children across the continent,’’ he said.