According to the United Nations, the terrorist group Boko Haram has recruited approximately 8000 children to aid in its war against the Nigerian state.
Child recruitment, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), began with the outbreak of the Boko Haram crisis in the northeast in 2009.
The UN agency stated that some boys and girls were used as human shields and to detonate bombs while calling for increased efforts to protect child victims and witnesses in terrorism-related court proceedings in Nigeria.
A statement by the agency on Wednesday, February 2, said:
“According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s (UNODC) report from the Handbook of Children Recruited and exploited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups since 2009, about 8,000 children have been recruited and used by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Some boys have been forced to attack their own families to demonstrate loyalty to Boko Haram, while girls have been forced to marry, clean, cook and carry equipment and weapons.”
The statement added that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) received consistent reports that some boys and girls were increasingly being used as human shields and to detonate bombs not just in Nigeria but in Cameroon and the Niger Republic.
The agency also cited May 2015 as an example of a 12-year-old girl who was used to detonate a bomb at a bus station in Damaturu, Yobe State, killing seven people.
The statement further said that the recently released propaganda video by ISWAP, showing children being taught military skills to train them for fighting and the latest attack on the Chibok community in Borno State by ISWAP are a reminder of the importance to step up the efforts aimed to protect children from terrorist groups.
UNODC added that:
“Thousands of children have since then been recruited, exploited as servants, cooks, spies, in hostilities, and even used to carry out suicide attacks. When these children exit the groups, they have experienced prolonged violence, their bonds to the communities have been severed, and their personal development has been warped. As thousands of people, including children, are currently leaving the ranks of the groups to rejoin society, the urgency of appropriate responses increases.”