Zulum’s alarm on Boko Haram Child soldiers

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The latest revelation by the Governor of Borno state, Professor Babagana Zulum, that Boko Haram insurgents are now recruiting children in the state is a cause for concern that should jolt Nigeria’s military hierarchy towards stemming the dangerous tide. Zulum also expressed concern over the challenges faced in camps housing internally displaced persons (IDPs) which requires urgent redress.
The governor, who made the  disclosure last week in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, when he received a committee of members of the House of Representatives, said more than 700,000 IDPs in Monguno, and 400,000 in Gamboru Ngala have no access to their farmlands, adding that the continued stay of able-bodied people in the IDP camps presents a serious problem which could worsen the crisis. 
“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,” he said. 
The governor advised the House committee members, who were in Maiduguri for an oversight function at the North-East Development Commission, to move from short-term humanitarian support to long-term development. He also urged them to work out sustainable policies to ensure the safe return of IDPs to their communities.
It is instructive that the Chief of Military Public Information for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Timothy Antigha, had last month in N’Djamena, Chad, disclosed that the Boko Haram terrorist group has introduced the use of child soldiers to resuscitate its declining influence in the Lake Chad Basin. Antigha, a Nigerian army colonel, said the recruitment of child soldiers by the sect was part of their new strategies following the recent mass surrender by their fighters to the military.

He said information on this disturbing development was brought in by intelligence sources and corroborated by concerned individuals and groups a couple of days ago. He added that the Boko Haram terrorists further confirmed the development when they posted pictures of children dressed in military fatigue and holding assault rifles in a video released during the Sallah celebrations.

According to him, the recruitment of child soldiers is the latest in a retinue of brutal and inhuman tactics deployed by Boko Haram since it began the futile attempt to cause mayhem and overthrow constitutional and social order. “Earlier, Boko Haram have engaged in the mass abduction of school girls, sexual enslavement of women and mass murder of innocent civilians. This recent employment of child soldiers is as a result of frustration caused by several operational losses, leadership crises, as well as disillusionment among fighters and their subsequent surrender in hundreds to the MNJTF.

“The focus on children is because they are easier to manipulate and indoctrinate than the adults within the region who can now see through the veil of deceit. Arising from this latest atrocity by Boko Haram, the MNJTF urges parents, local authorities, religious and traditional institutions to be vigilant and promptly alert security agencies of any overt or covert attempts to recruit their children and wards,” he said.

Antigha advised youth to be mindful of promises of power and influence, economic prosperity and spiritual growth by the sect owing to the disillusionment and surrender that had depleted their ranks. The stories of hardship and evil within the terrorist organisations as revealed by all surrendered Boko Haram fighters should be sufficient notice that Boko Haram and ISWAP have nothing good to offer anyone.

“It would be recalled that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict forbids the recruitment and use of children in Armed Conflicts. The protocol states among others that; “Armed groups distinct from armed forces of a country should not, under any circumstances, recruit or use in hostilities anyone under 18.

“It is against this background that the MNJTF is drawing the attention of the United Nations, its relevant agencies and other stakeholders to the latest acts of inhumanity and desperation by Boko Haram, and urges severe condemnation and other necessary action. On our part, the MNJTF will continue with activities that are focused on the protection of children and other vulnerable groups within its area of operation,” he added.

We are indeed worried that the Boko Haram terrorists have have continued to devise unconventional means as well as the outright violation of international laws and protocols such as the recruitment of child soldiers to perpetrate their dastardly acts, thus making the war against the insurgency in the last decade seemingly intractable. It is, therefore, imperative for the Nigerian troops to go the extra mile to deal decisively with the Boko Haram nightmare.

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