The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has expressed worry that, nine years after 276 schoolgirls were abducted in the middle of the night from their dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria, 96 girls still remained in captivity, and thousands more children had been subjected to grave violations of their rights.
UNICEF conveyed their message in a statement issued on Friday, April 14, 2023 commemorating the 9th year rememberance of the Chibok girls’ abduction.
They noted that, as recently as 7 April 2023, 80 children were reportedly abducted by militants in Zamfara State’s Tsafe Local Government Area according to local media. This, they said reinforces the urgent need for action to protect children in Nigeria.
In response, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, emphasised that there was need to ensure children grow up in safety, with access to education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential:
“The statistics are disturbing; the reality is devastating. It has been 9 years since the horrendous abduction of the Chibok girls, yet the nightmare continues as children are still being kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured– their futures torn away.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Nigeria’s children. We must do everything in our power to ensure they grow up in safety, with access to education and the opportunity to fulfill their potential”, she said.
The statement informed that, since 2014, there had been over 2,400 incidents of grave violations verified, affecting over 6,800 children in the north-east. The most common violations being recruitment or use of children by armed groups with 700 verified cases, followed by abductions of children, with 693 incidents, and killing and maiming, with 675 incidents.
It noted that the impact of the conflict on education was alarming, with repercussions that will likely affect generations.
Also, the Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TCN) reports that, between 2009 and 2022, around 2,295 teachers were reportedly killed in attacks, over 19,000 teachers were displaced, more than 1,500 schools closed because of insecurity, and 910 schools were destroyed.
It said UNIICEF welcomes the Government of Nigeria’s signing of the UNICEF-supported handover protocol and its commitment to invest N144.8 billion ($314.5 Million) towards the Safe Schools Financing Plan in 2022 and stands ready to support the Government in its implementation to ensure that all children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria or released from armed groups are quickly reunited with their families and benefit from reintegration programmes.
Therefore, UNICEF Nigeria calls on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and protect the rights and well-being of children. UNICEF Nigeria stands committed to working with the government and partners to ensure that every child in Nigeria can enjoy their rights and live in a peaceful and prosperous society.