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Nigeria records staggering upsurge in mass killings, violations against kids in conflict

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze and Joke Falaju (Abuja)
30 June 2022   |   3:51 am
One week after the 2022 Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria 143 among 163 independent nations, according to the level of peacefulness, ActionAid Nigeria has raised concern over the mass killings across the country

[FILES] A police crime scene tape is seen in front of St. Francis Catholic Church where gunmen attacked worshippers during a Sunday mass service in Owo, Ondo, Nigeria, June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja<br />

UNICEF reports 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children by ISWAP
• Mass killings increased by 116% in three years, says ActionAid

One week after the 2022 Global Peace Index ranked Nigeria 143 among 163 independent nations, according to the level of peacefulness, ActionAid Nigeria has raised concern over the mass killings across the country, revealing that such incidents have increased by 116 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

Nigeria had, last week, moved three places up on the global peace log from the 146th position it was ranked last year. However, quoting from research conducted by Global Rights, the Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, said at least 14,641 people have died from mass atrocities perpetrated across all geo-political zones in Nigeria between January 2019 and December 2021.

She lamented that the trend is increasing daily, as in 2019, 3,183 fatalities were recorded, in 2020, the figure rose to 4,556 and in 2021, about 6,895 deaths were recorded, representing a 116 per cent increase over the last three years.

Obi, while speaking yesterday in Abuja at a workshop on Community of Practice (CoP) on Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) in the country, stressed the need to strengthen private sector collaboration to curb the menace in the country.

Represented by the body’s Director of Resource Mobilisation and Innovation, Andrew Mamedu, she lamented that in the last few years, violence has become fatally routine and a daily affair in the country, such that its intensity, scale and frequency have become endemic, and rapidly acquiring a pandemic nature.

THIS is coming as a new report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) also revealed that more than 42,000 children were recruited and used in conflicts in the West and Central African region between 2005 and 2020.

In the report titled ‘25 Years of Children and Armed Conflict: Taking Action to Protect Children,’ UNICEF disclosed that more than 7,600 children were killed or maimed in the regions during the years under review.

Between 2005 and 2020, over 266,000 UN verified violations against children have been committed by parties to conflict in more than 30 conflict situations across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

In Nigeria, there were 391 verified cases of grave violations against 306 children in 2021 and these violations mainly occurred in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states and were attributed to ISWAP and other armed groups. This is a 56 per cent increase in the number of grave violations against children (208) verified in 2020.

The above figure is a fraction of the violations believed to have occurred, as access and security constraints, among others, and the shame, pain and fear that children and family survivors suffer often hamper the reporting, documentation and verification of grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict.

In the report released, yesterday, West and Central Africa recorded the second-highest number of verified violations since 2005 with more than 67,000 verified grave violations, accounting for a quarter of all violations globally.

“Between 2005 and 2020 in West and Central Africa, more than 7,600 children have been verified as killed or maimed in situations of armed conflict,” the report partly read. “Over 42,000 children have been verified as recruited and used by parties to the conflict,” it added.

The report further detailed that about 4,800 children were abducted by parties to the conflict, with about 8,000 children raped, forcefully married and sexually exploited. According to the report, over 2,500 schools and hospitals were attacked during the years under review.

Nigeria had during the years under review significantly recorded a series of attacks by bandits and terrorist sects.

Speaking on the report, Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, highlighted the need to intensify efforts toward ending grave violations against children.

“The killing, abduction, and rape of girls and boys are horrific crimes. The increase in verified grave violations in the Central Sahel over the last quarter and their devastating impact on the well-being of children shows the need and importance of continuing our efforts to provide care to the victims and advocate for their immediate end.

“Attacks on civilians, including children, must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” she said.

“Behind each of the violations detailed in the report is a child, his or her family and members of a community whose lives are torn apart, sometimes forever. We cannot remain indifferent and silent. Attacks on civilians including children must be stopped and all measures for their protection, including during military operations, must be taken,” she added.

While expressing concerns over the low involvement of the private sector in the prevention of violent extremism, ActionAid Nigeria said it was understandable the rationale for private sector abstainers, “be it political, social or organisational and the vulnerability of their assets when security degenerates, but the silence has been deafening and it is time to make a change.”

She called on the private sector to deviate from their usual norm of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and join donors in funding community-led programmes that offer educational, vocational and cultural alternatives for youths because they are seemingly the targets engaged to push terrorism and banditry.

While pointing out that Action Aid believes that if the country is able to address unemployment and poverty, it will be easy to prevent violent extremism, Mamedu said in the last six years, ActionAid has successfully implemented the first and second phases of a System and Structure Strengthening Approach against Radicalisation to Violent Extremism (SARVE) project in Kogi, Nasarawa and most recently, Kano and Kaduna states.