More than 2,000 children have been cleared of having any links to the Boko Haram sect; as well as non-state armed groups in Nigeria’s North East since 2016.
The development was disclosed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday.
A total of 2,013 children were cleared of “alleged connections with an armed group,” UNICEF’s Chief of Field Office in Borno State; Phuong Nguyen, said at a meeting with local government officials. Most of the children were arrested by the military on suspicion of having links to the Boko Haram terror group.
She disclosed that another 2,188 children conscripted by the state-backed vigilante group; the Civilian Joint Task (CJTF) were also freed. Nguyen said the intervention was funded and supported by the European Union to protect children’s rights.
Children that fled their homes and schools in the wake of terror attacks in Nigeria account for about one-third of the three million civilians displaced since 2009 when the violence began.
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks and bombings. The jihadist sect has prosecuted a decade-long insurgency against the Nigerian government.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has welcomed the release of the 27 students of the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization, Afaka, near Kaduna.
The president expressed his delight in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity; Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, late Wednesday night.
Buhari congratulated the friends and families of the students over their release. He also congratulated the government and people of Kaduna State following the happy end to the saga.
The president said: “We are happy they have been released.
“We express our deep appreciation to all the actors who contributed one way or the other to this happy outcome; in particular, the defence and security agencies, the officials of the Ministry of Environment and the government of Kaduna State.
‘‘We thank Nigerians for their prayers.”
Further, Buhari called for steadfastness and security awareness on the part of citizens and the law enforcement agencies. He deplored the increasing politicization of security issues in the country by opportunistic politicians.
Also, he seized the opportunity to appeal for the release of the students of Greenfield University; as well as all other citizens held in captivity.