UNODC holds consultation in Abuja on the treatment of children affected by Terrorist Groups 

It is estimated that Boko Haram and ISWAP since 2009 have recruited about 8000 children. Due to the difficulties associated with collecting reliable data it is likely that these figures are underestimated. In 2014, the abduction of 276 girls from their school in Chibok attracted international attention, unmasking the brutality and disregard these groups hold against children. "Armed groups in the north-east have been recruiting and using children as combatants and non-combatants, raping and forcing girls to marry, and committing other grave violations against children. Some of the girls become pregnant in captivity and give birth without any medical care or attention" reported a civil society representative from Maiduguri. A 2017 report by UNICEF  found that the use of children to carry out suicide attacks had become a defining feature of the conflict. This tragic feature of the conflict once more made the headlines when on 17 June two girls and a boy carried out a suicide bombing in Konduga village in north-eastern Borno State, reportedly killing at least 30 people.

Recruitment and exploitation have a long-lasting impact on children's lives. Today, rehabilitating and reintegrating these children poses significant challenges, not only in view of their number, but also due to the intense and lasting traumatic effects. In June 2019, UNODC therefore organised a consultative workshop to address the situation of children recruited and exploited by terrorist groups under the EU-Nigeria-UNODC-CTED Partnership Project. UNODC gathered all relevant stakeholders in Abuja, including representatives from the Office of the National Security Advisor (ONSA), Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development   as well as representative of the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development of  Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, Federal High Court, National Human Rights Commission, Legal Aid Council of Nigeria, The Presidential Committee on the North- East Initiative, prosecutors, social workers,  and civil society organizations, as well as UNICEF, OHCHR, IOM. The Chief Judges of Borno and Yobe State High Courts were also in attendance.

The representative of the Federal Ministry of Justice noted that in the past, Nigeria neglected the issue of children formerly associated with terrorist groups. He mentioned that it was time for Nigeria to raise up to its responsibility to support these children in their journey to become tomorrow's citizens. He called on experts both local and international to proffer practical solutions towards tackling the phenomenon in order to secure the future of the Nigerian child and the country as a whole.

The consultation aimed to identify priorities in the areas of prevention, reintegration, and justice and to foster a multi-disciplinary coordination in addressing these pressing challenges.  UNODC introduced the training package (including the UNODC Handbook), and Roadmap on the treatment of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups. Participants discussed gaps in the current preventative framework, needs to improve coherence and effectiveness of rehabilitation and reintegration efforts, as well as necessities for specialized training on the protection of children in a counter-terrorism context. National authorities asserted their renewed commitment to addressing this phenomenon and guaranteeing children's rights. UNODC reiterated its readiness to support Nigeria in pursuing the complementary objectives of preserving public safety and protecting children.

UNODC has been providing technical assistance since 2015, through its Global Programme to End Violence against Children to support the efforts of over 30 Member States in different regions of the world addressing this urgent and complex phenomenon.

For further information:

UNODC Handbook on Children Recruited and Exploited by Terrorist and Violent extremist groups: The Role of the Justice System ( Arabic, English, French, Russian)

UNODC's Roadmap on the Treatment of Children Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups

E-Press Folder

Factsheet UNODC-EndVAC Global Programme