The United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to Nigeria, Leila Zerrougui, on Saturday said children in the north-eastern part of Nigeria are in desperate need of protection from acts of terrorism and violence perpetuated by Boko Haram insurgents.
Zerrougui, a special envoy representing the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon on Children and Armed Conflicts, said at the end of a week-long visit to Nigeria, that children growing up in Nigeria’s north-east are in need of protection from relentless.
The Special Representative travelled to Nigeria to assess the conflict’s impact on children. She met the country’s federal authorities, the authorities of Adamawa State, the United Nations, the diplomatic community, civil society and other partners to galvanise efforts to gather and verify information on grave violations committed against children; to help the Government and its partners provide better protection for children and promote accountability.
In Yola, Zerrougui met with displaced people from the conflict-affected areas, including children and women.
Speaking on her experience, she said: “I witnessed people’s shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities. I saw trauma in children’s eyes. The scale of the suffering is way beyond what I anticipated to find. The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection”.
“In northern Nigeria, over 900,000 people, many of them women and children, have fled their homes. More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed, hundreds of children have been killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools.
“Throughout 2014, the armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria was one of the world’s deadliest for children. There was a dramatic rise in violence, growing recruitment and use of children, sometimes very young, as well as countless abductions and attacks on schools.
The Special Representative is also concerned by reports of sexual violence against girls, including forced marriages and rapes.
She stated that, “The beginning of 2015 brought again relentless violence with the appalling suicide bombing committed by a girl allegedly as young as ten, killing several people in a market in Maiduguri, as well as what some organisations have termed as Boko Haram’s deadliest attack in Baga.
The Special Representative was encouraged by her open dialogue with Nigerian authorities and their commitment to collaborate with the United Nations, investigate allegations of violations committed against children and take the necessary actions to hold perpetrators accountable.
“I commend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for his willingness to respond to reports of recruitment and use of children by government-affiliated self-defense groups in the three North-eastern states. He has agreed to issue an advisory recalling the prohibition of such a practice,” said Zerrougui.
She also met with the representatives of the movement “Bring Back our Girls” and remains deeply concerned by the fate of the more than 200 school girls abducted in Chibok in April 2014. She equally expressed concern at the fate of all children abducted by Boko Haram.
The UN is expected to continue their advocacy with Nigerian authorities and support all efforts that could lead to the children’s release.