The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund ( UNICEF) has disclosed that the Nigerian military released over 3,500 suspected Boko Haram terrorists from custody in the last four years.
According to a statement released by UNICEF’s Communications Officer, Sam Kaalu, a total of 223 children including 10 girls were among the latest released from Nigerian Army administrative custody and Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison after they were cleared of suspected ties with armed groups.
Kaalu said the suspects were released to the safe custody of Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, UNICEF and Borno State authorities in Maiduguri, Northeast region of Nigeria.
He stated that the children will now immediately enter a programme that would help them reintegrate into their communities, re-engage with their families, and take the first steps towards creating a new life and means of livelihood.
Some of the children, he noted, had been missing for up to four to five years, with many presumed dead by their families.
According to Kaalu, since 2016, 3,559 people associated with armed groups have been released from administrative custody, including 1,743 children (1,125 boys, 618 girls). All have gone through the Bulumkutu Rehabilitation Centre in Maiduguri in Borno State and have since been reunited with their families or placed in the most appropriate alternative care, where they are accessing rehabilitation services and reintegration support in their communities.
He said that UNICEF is working closely with Nigerian state authorities to help with reintegration programmes for all children formerly associated with non-state armed groups, and others affected by the ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria.