The United Nations (UN) says a total of 694 “grave violations” against 532 children were recorded in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe from January 2020 to December 2021.
The organisation disclosed this in its third report of the UN secretary-general on children and armed conflict in Nigeria, released on Wednesday.
According to the report, a high percentage of the perpetrators were identified as members of the Boko Haram sect and other splinter groups, including the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) and the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (JAS)
“From January 2020 to December 2021, the country task force verified 694 grave violations against 532 children (279 boys, 250 girls, 3 sex unknown) in the three conflict-affected states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa in north-east Nigeria,” the report reads.
“A total of 58 children were victims of multiple violations, including 14 children (12 boys, 2 girls) who were abducted and recruited and used, 42 girls who were victims of abduction, recruitment and use and sexual violence, and 2 girls who were raped and killed.
“The abduction of children remained a key concern in 2021, with the highest number of children verified as having been abducted (211) since 2014.
“Overall, 212 children were verified killed or maimed mainly by gunshots during crossfire, which represented 90 per cent of all child casualties. 70 children were verified as recruited and used, a violation often compounded by other grave violations such as abduction, sexual violence, or killing and maiming.”
According to the report, 63 girls endured sexual violence, with the UN describing such cases as “a violation always challenging to document and verify owing to the survivors’ fear of stigma and lack of access to some conflict-affected areas by the country task force”.
Although, there is no year-by-year breakdown of figures, the report states that the present figures show a decrease in “grave violations”, compared to the previous report when 5,741 grave violations were verified within a three-year period.
The relative reduction in grave violations, according to the report, may be linked to several factors, including the loss of territories previously controlled by JAS and ISWAP, and the implementation of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) action plan addressing the recruitment and use of children.
RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN SPURRED VIOLATIONS
According to the report, the recruitment and use of children often led to or followed other grave violations.
“Most children (56) were verified to have been recruited through abduction, including 42 girls who were sexually abused during their association. Children associated with JAS and ISWAP were used as combatants, as well as in support roles, such as cleaners or cooks, for intelligence gathering and for sexual purposes,” the report reads.
“For example, in November 2021, the country task force verified the case of a 17-year-old boy used as a spy by ISWAP in the Damboa Local Government Area.
“All 42 girls who were subjected to sexual violence were used as sexual slaves and forcibly married to JAS and ISWAP combatants during their association with the groups in 2020 (9) and 2021 (33).”
The report noted no new verified cases of children used as carriers of explosive devices, unlike previous reporting periods.
Speaking on the report, Virginia Gamba, special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, condemned attacks on children, and called on insurgents to release all child captives.
“The children of Nigeria and of the Lake Chad Basin region have to live under the constant fear and threat of grave violations against them, especially gruesome violations at the hands of Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups. They further risk being caught up in military operations against the group by Government Forces,” she was quoted as saying.
“I urge Boko Haram-affiliated and splinter groups, notably Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad and the Islamic State West Africa Province, to release all children associated with them and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. I urge all parties to immediately end all violations against children.
“While the security situation remains explosive with dramatic consequences for children, I want to commend the work of child protection and humanitarian partners on the ground. I urge all parties to respect the civilian character of schools and hospitals and to allow safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors to affected populations,” the Special Representative added.
“The United Nations stands ready to continue to support the Government of Nigeria and international partners to ensure that all children in Nigeria are effectively protected from violence and hostilities.”