A recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed that over 20,000 children in the North-East region suffered various forms of grave violations in the last seven years. The six grave violations, according to the report, included killing and maiming of children; recruitment and use of children by armed forces or armed groups; sexual violence against children; attacks against schools and hospitals; abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.
Similarly, the United Nations (UN) disclosed that the number of verified violations against children in 2018, put at 24,000, was two-and-half times higher than the violations in 2010. The UN also stated that of this figure, 12,000 children were verified to have been killed or maimed globally in 2018, with almost 800 of them from the North-East region of the country.
The report indicated that in the first half of 2019, over 10,000 violations against children were verified but stressed that the actual figures were likely to be much higher. It estimated that about 200 children were affected during this period in the North-East. According to the UNICEF Nigeria’s Acting Representative, Pernille Ironside, “2019 concluded ‘a deadly decade’ for children not only in Nigeria, but across the globe.”
The report pointed out that since the start of the decade, the UN had verified more than 170,000 grave violations against children in conflict. This is said to be an equivalent of more than 45 violations every day for the last 10 years. So far, the number of countries experiencing conflict is highest since the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child in 1989.
According to UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, “conflicts around the world are lasting longer, causing more bloodshed and claiming more young lives. “Attacks on children continue unabated as warring parties flout one of the most basic rules of war: the protection of children. For every act of violence against children that creates headlines and cries of outrage, there are many more that go unreported.”
Available records indicated that in June 2019, about three children were reportedly exploited and used by an armed group to detonate explosives that killed 30 people and injured 48 others at a community football viewing centre in Konduga, Borno State. In the same month, 19 children were killed amidst protests in Sudan with another 49 injured.
In November, UNICEF reported that years of violence and instability in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon have left more than 855,000 children out of school and displaced 59,000 adolescents.
The number of children in Nigeria who are outside the school system is put at 13.2 million. Of this figure, the North has 6.9 million or 69 per cent. There is no doubt that the insurgency in the North-East must have exacerbated the situation.
We condemn the rising cases of violation of children in the North-East region and urge the government and the relevant United Nations (UN) agencies to urgently address the issue. Since this is a global problem, it is good that all UN member states map out measures to save children from such violations that have increased in recent times.
Besides, the Federal Government should intensify the war against terrorism which is fueling the violation against children in the war-torn North-East region. In 2018, the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) ranked Nigeria third among countries worst hit by terrorism worldwide. We believe that the proliferation of illegal weapons in the country might have contributed to the growing insecurity in the country. Since unemployment and poverty are partly responsible for the insurgency, government should prioritise the creation of more jobs in 2020 as well as put adequate measures in place to curb poverty in the country.
The Federal Government must resolve to frontally tackle all forms of violations against children in the country, especially in the North-East region. The state and local governments should work in concert with the Federal Government to ensure that children are safe in our country.