Army hands over 86 Boko Haram child fighters for rehabilitation
Over 86 Boko Haram child fighters, who voluntarily surrendered to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, were yesterday, handed over to the Borno State government for comprehensive childcare rehabilitation.
The development is part of efforts to ensure that minors and other repentant Boko Haram fighters in the North East are given necessary support and opportunity to embrace peace.
The repentant Boko Haram fighters, granted opportunity through the auspices of Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC), would undergo comprehensive childcare programme sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in conjunction with Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, at the state Rehabilitation Centre in Bulumkutu.
In a statement issued by the Acting Director, Defence Information, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who disclosed that the child fighters, who are between ages 10 and 19, were part of over 1,370 Boko Haram fighters who had surrendered so far, said after a thorough profiling and screening, the minors were considered suitable for the six months De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme.
He added that arrangement was also ongoing to transfer another set of 500 repentant insurgents to OPSC for DRR.
Nwachukwu said the hand-over was witnessed by the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo, and UNICEF official, Clement Adams, who congratulated them for laying down their arms and urged them to take advantage of the DRR programme to turn a new leaf and abandon the senseless struggle.
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) wishes to use this medium to call on willing Boko Haram fighters to abandon the futile struggle and surrender to troops of Operation Lafiya Dole. Those who voluntarily surrender to troops are guaranteed safety and will benefit from the DRR programme.
“The AFN is further committed to its strict adherence to the rules of engagement and other extant laws, especially as it relates to minors in conflict situations,” he said.
He stressed that the programme was a Defence Headquarters (DHQ)-ed non-kinetic multi-national and multi-agency humanitarian operation conducted in tandem with extant international humanitarian laws to encourage willing and repentant terrorists in the North East to shun violent extremism.
“The operation is designed to also de-radicalise, rehabilitate and re-integrate repentant Boko Haram combatants who willingly surrender to troops. The scheme is a global model that enjoys collaboration and support from local and international Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), as well as multi-national organisations, such as UNICEF), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department for International Development (DfID), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and North East Regional Initiative (NERI).”