The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says more than 300,000 children have been killed in the last 12 years of Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP) terrorism in Northeast Nigeria.
The UNICEF statistics released on Monday shows that over one million persons have been displaced within the period under review.
The UN body also said no fewer than 5,129 out-of-school children were currently battling mental health challenges as a result of the conflict in the North.
The UNICEF Media Contact in Maiduguri said the deaths of the 300,000 children were a summation of direct and indirect attacks on children, adding that it includes “children killed in crossfires, Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs), children used as suicide bombers, children killed by malnutrition among others.”
Salihu Bakhari, a retired security officer, said he was not surprised by the figures released by UNICEF, stating: “We are just coming to terms with the reality because the attention in the past was on the frequency of attacks and destruction. We paid little attention to the humanitarian crises including how children were affected.
“I believe more figures would be reeled out in the coming months but the most important thing is for various stakeholders to start thinking on how to address the challenges.
“There are many children that are missing; some have been stolen and others are in the hands of terrorists. They are nurturing them to become fighters. So, while we frown and lament the killing of children, there must be a deliberate effort to save those in captivity and make life meaningful for them.”
UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, advocated that every stakeholder must ensure attacks against children stop immediately.
He said his organisation and the European Union (EU) were working together to provide community-based psychosocial services.
He said, “The scars of conflict are real and enduring for children. Too many children in North East Nigeria are falling victim to a conflict they did not start. Attacks against children must stop immediately.
“In the meantime, we are committed to working with our partners to provide psychosocial and other support to conflict-affected children, so they can regain their childhood and restart their lives.”
Hawkins said that the EU-funded Support to Early Recovery and Resilience Project, implemented by UNICEF, was aimed at improving the mental health of 5,129 out-of-school children in Borno State.
He said the intervention had so far provided 15,552 out-of-school children with vocational training; 1,610 out-of-school children with literacy and numeracy skills and 5,194 children enrolled into integrated Qur’anic schools across focus LGAs.
Governor Babagana Zulum recently said over 100,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram, amplifying what his predecessor, Kashim Shettima said in 2017.
Meanwhile, despite efforts put in place by relevant security agents to stem the tide of the challenges, terrorists loyal to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) remained relentless in their campaign.
This is just as the Nigerian military said the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), a rival terrorists’ organisation has started massive recruitment of jobless youths into its fold to continue wreaking havoc.
Spokesman of Nigerian Army, Brigadier General Onyeama Nwachukwu, said on Monday at the headquarters of the Theatre Command, Operation Hadin Kai, Maiduguri, Borno State that members of the outlawed group were in a massive recruitment drive, advising the public to be on the lookout within their immediate environment, saying it was very important to engage the media to block this recruitment.
Theatre Commander, Operations Hadin Kai, Major General Christopher Musa, said military operatives were doing their best in handling the issue of Boko Haram within the international laws.
Musa said that the theatre of operation had sustained the tempo of its operations to root out the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists from the zone, adding that tremendous achievements had been recorded since he assumed office and since the assumption of Lieutenant General Farouk Yahaya as Chief of Army Staff.
According to him, the operation started in 2009 and quickly added there must be issues whenever any operation lasted for over a decade.
“It is the intention of the chief of army staff to see that they put an end to the menace. A lot of innocent lives have been lost and developmentally, the region has gone backwards many years and it will take a long time before it can recover,” he said.
Speaking on this, the chairman of one of the humanitarian agencies in Maiduguri said the federal government must fully restore civil authority in what he called “ungoverned territories.”
He said, “Why we come this long with the Boko Haram crisis is that there is a wallowing gap in the security architecture.
“Whenever the military…I am talking about the army, air force and in some places navy restored peace by killing or arresting terrorists, they have to move to other areas and this is where the problem lies.
“Ordinarily, the police, civil defence, customs and immigration should quickly step in and establish civil order but this is not the case. And once you don’t have civil authority, it is a matter of time for the terrorists to move in again.
“So, while the military is massively sacking the terrorists, sister agencies should step in and state governments especially in the crisis-prone areas should support local government authorities to function well,” he said.