Boko Haram Now Recruiting Child Soldier in Borno State

 Boko Haram Now Recruiting Child Soldier in Borno State

By Yuniwoh CJ

Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has raised the alarm that Boko Haram terrorists are recruiting children in the state while expressing concern over the challenges facing internally displaced persons in camps.

The governor disclosed this on Thursday last wee k in Maiduguri, the Borno capital, while receiving some members of the House of Representatives, according to TheCable.

Zulum also said more than 700,000 IDPs in Monguno and 400,000 in Gamboru Ngala had no access to their farmland

According to the governor, the continued stay of able-bodied persons in IDPs’ camps poses a serious problem that could worsen the crisis.

He said, “The only solution we have now is to ensure the safe return of our people to their homes in a dignified manner. If nothing is done, believe me sincerely, we shall face a very serious challenge, even more than what we are facing now.

“This is because right now, the insurgents are recruiting many of our children into the sect because of the increasing unemployment rate.”

The militant group Boko Haram continues to recruit children and use them in battlefields across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, officials and experts say. While it has suffered major military losses in the Lake Chad Basin, the extremist group seems to be adopting new strategies to revive its influence in the region, according to the experts.

Boko Haram has long engaged in mass abduction of schoolgirls, sexual enslavement of women and the mass murder of innocent civilians, officials and rights groups say.

In July, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict presented a report to the U.N. Security Council in which it described “gruesome violations against children” in Nigeria’s northeast, Boko Haram’s main stronghold, and other countries where the militant group has an active presence.

According to the report, which documented violations between January 2017 and December 2019, the recruitment and use of children accounted for the greatest number of verified violations, with a total of 3,601 boys and girls affected.

Boko Haram was responsible for the recruitment and use of 1,385 children, mainly through abduction, used in direct combat and other support roles, including as sexual slaves, the report said.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently said Boko Haram militants used child suicide bombers in an early August attack on a site for displaced people in northern Cameroon, killing at least 17 civilians, including five children and six women as reported by VOA.

John Campbell, a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, says while Boko Haram has been using children between the ages of 5 and 8, the militant group has also relied on older children whose families have been killed during the conflict.

“The small children are being used as suicide bombers and having absolutely no idea whatsoever what is going on,” he told VOA, “but if you take older children, 13, 14 and 15 years old, particularly girls, as far as we can tell they are very often orphans.”

Officials with the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a regional military alliance fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, say one strategy of the group is to step up child recruitment according to VOA.

On the other hand, Terrorism expert Mohammed Tukur Baba, who teaches at the Federal University of Birnin  Kebbi in Nigeria, on VOA  says, while the use of child soldiers is nothing new in Africa, regional governments should increase their efforts to create better lives for children, in order to dissuade them from joining armed groups.

Speaking with Frontline News via phone call, Eric N. Siben, Peace and Conflict Resolution expert, at the University of Maiduguri who is currently rendering consultancy services  to many national and international organizations operating in northeast Nigeria in the area of peace building, counterdangerous, de-radicalization and conflict early warning system said that, recruiting children is the beginning of a circle above and unending insurgency in Nigeria. 

Siben added that some of these children and recruited and paid good money, stressing that not all are in the trenches, burning communities and killing people. Some are recruited as informants either in the camp or their host communities. Some of them disguise as scavengers (baban bola), polishing shoes, involved in manicures, groundnut selling. These set of children he said are very dangerous

On a final note, he said to remedy this situation is to ensure that poverty which is caused by corruption is broken. Adding that there is a lot of sharp practices taking place in IDP camps. He called on government and donor agencies to improve the livelihood of the IDPs.

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