Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged the federal and state governments to enhance their judicial systems for proper prosecution of bandits before the courts of law.
A UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, made the call while addressing journalists in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital at the weekend in preparation for the commemoration of World Humanitarian Day.
She lamented the absence of proper prosecution and punishments for bandits for the various crimes they perpetrate against humanity.
She said: “We have international laws and also a legal system. Of course, Nigeria has its national laws and these laws have to be applied to prosecute and punish bandits.
“It scares me that bandits are not taken to courts even though they have been assaulting and killing children and women, abducting and raping, etc.
“It scares me that no laws are applied to prosecute and punish them. If there is any legal process, I think there is a need for proper punishment for these people legally,” she explained.
The UNICEF Representative also faulted the method of relocation of IDPs to their ancestral communities which, according to her, has still not ended the problems of the majority of the relocated IDPs.
She suggested that the relocation should be a better-planned process that enables the relocated IDPs to properly rebuild their lives economically.
THISDAY reported that more than 1,680 schoolchildren have been kidnapped in Nigeria since the 2014 abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in Borno State, while the fear of attacks stopped some children from ever attending school, according to Save the Children.
In April 2014, the abduction from a school in Chibok made global headlines and sparked the #BringBackOurGirls movement and protests, which attracted public support from celebrities and public figures, including Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton, and then First Lady, Michelle Obama.
However, new data analysis by Save the Children reveals that attacks on schools have been continuing out of the spotlight and highlights the violence that schoolchildren and teachers face across Nigeria.
In addition to the abductions, over 180 schoolchildren were killed and nearly 90 injured in 70 attacks between April 2014 and December 2022, with an estimated 60 school staff kidnapped and 14 killed. Twenty-five school buildings were reportedly destroyed during that period.
The majority of these attacks took place in the North-west (49 attacks), followed by North-central (11 attacks).
These attacks have long-lasting consequences for communities and children’s access to education, often leading to the mass withdrawal of children from school and school closures.
In Katsina State in the Northwestern part of the country, nearly 100 schools remain closed due to insecurity, affecting the education of over 30,000 children.
In the aftermath of attacks, children and communities are left traumatised, and the majority do not receive psychological support.
During focus group discussions with affected communities, Save the Children staff found that many children were too scared to return to school. One girl, who survived the Chibok school attack, said: “I am afraid of being a victim some other day and afraid of dying or rape by the insurgents.”
The Country Director at Save the Children Nigeria, Famari Barro, said more needs to be done to prevent attacks but also to support children and their families in the aftermath.
In 2015, Nigeria endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, which seeks to ensure the continuity of safe education during armed conflict and outlines commitments to strengthen the protection of education from attack, but it remains largely unimplemented at the state and community levels. Rural community schools remain vulnerable to attacks.