Nigerian children are targets of schools attacks, kidnaps, rape and recruitment

Children in conflicts, Safe schools

Children in northeastern Nigeria are being subjected to school attacks, abductions, forced recruitment, rape and other sexual violence.

And the scale of violations against children is so extreme that urgent action is needed by the Nigerian government, the United Nations and other agencies to protect them, a report has revealed.

Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict – an international network of human rights and humanitarian non-government organisations – yesterday produced the 64-page report titled “Who Will Care for Us?” Grave Violations against Children in Northeastern Nigeria. The report looked at incidents dating back to the start of current conflict in December 2012, including the kidnapping the Chibok schoolgirls by Boko Haram.

Watchlist said more than three million children have had their lives disrupted by the conflict.

Researcher Janine Morna said: “While the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno State, has shed some light on how children are affected by the conflict in the northeast, most abuses are still poorly documented, understood and addressed by key actors.”

Watchlist researched attacks on schools in the region which – according to its survey – has resulted in the death, injury or abduction of at least 414 students, teachers or other civilians on school premises between January 2012 and July 2014.

Ms Morna added: “Continuous attacks on schools have devastated education in the region, creating a climate of fear for students and teachers, and leading to school closures from as early as April 2013. Relevant actors must bolster school security through programmes like the Safe Schools Initiative.”

The Safe Schools Initiative was launched by Nigerian business leaders working with the UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, the Global Business Coalition for Education and A World at School. It aims to ensure Nigerian schools are safe from attacks.

The Watchlist report features a graphic account by a 13-year-old boy of an attack on his school, the Federal Government College Buni Yadi in Yobe State.

He said: “We were sleeping in the hostel. We heard the gun shots. I woke up from sleeping … 10 boys were in the room … I went out of the room … I was running … I was feeling afraid… I had gotten out of the room and I was shot at in the leg … 

“The person pointed a gun at me… I fell down… I was hit with two bullets on my left foot … I pretended like I died… because if I didn’t pretend they would shoot me again … 

“I felt like 30 minutes … When the people were not at the place I woke up. I woke up and entered the room again. The students that didn’t die… I said if they are able to run, let us run.”

Watchlist said it is particularly concerning that children are being forced to spy or help armed attacks by Boko Haram and the Civilian Joint Task Force, a militia formed in mid-2013 in Borno state.

Ms Morna said: “Children as young as 13 are being recruited by both sides of the conflict and have nowhere to turn.”

She said Nigerian security forces who encounter child soldiers in Boko Haram’s ranks often detain these children in unofficial military detention facilities known for the mistreatment of detainees, instead of protecting and rehabilitating them in accordance with international standards.

She added: “The government of Nigeria should denounce the recruitment of children by all armed groups, take immediate steps to release child soldiers in their custody, and develop procedures to transfer child soldiers to civilian actors.

“The humanitarian response to violations against children has been slow, fragmented, and unable to meet the fast-growing needs of those affected by the conflict.

“The Nigerian Government, United Nations and non-governmental agencies must take urgent steps to recruit experts with experience operating in a conflict situation and scale up programming to support some of Nigeria’s most vulnerable and marginalised children.”

Find out how you can take action to help children in conflict zones.

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