A human rights and a humanitarian organization has exonerated the Nigerian Army and the government of recruiting child soldiers to fight insurgency.
The Global Amnesty Watch [GAW] has condemned a report by the United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report that claimed that Nigerian Army has been recruiting child soldiers into the Civilian JTF in their war against the dreaded Boko Haram sect.
In a communique signed at the end of its meeting, the GAW exonerated the Nigerian government from the allegation of using children to prosecute the insurgency war in the northeastern parts of the country.
GAW said the claim by the report was not only false but meant to put Nigeria in bad light and give the country a bad image in the eyes of the global community.
The US 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report had vowed to investigate allegations of the use of child soldiers in the fight against Boko Haram, saying it categorically contravened the Child Soldier Prohibition Act 2008.
However, after rigorous investigations, the Human Rights and humanitarian organization said the report was not only misleading but a deliberate attempt to belittle the efforts of the Nigerian military in its fight against the insurgency.
While briefing the press, the Country’s Representative of GAW, Helen Adesola, said the instances of underage persons or children being conscripted to fight in the crisis was limited to Boko Haram, which abducts the children, brainwash them, ply them with drugs and send them out to fight.
Part of the communique by the GAW reads:
'The United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report accused the Civilian JTF of recruiting child fighters and therefore placing minors in a hostile environment in contravention of the Child Soldier Prohibition Act, CSPA, 2008.
The accusation was expanded to imply that the Nigerian government and military authorities were responsible for recruiting these children even when the vigilante group operates voluntarily.
The Global Amnesty Watch commissioned an investigation to establish the veracity or otherwise of the US report in line with its stated objective of monitoring and observing adherence to human rights issues in areas with ongoing conflicts.
The Global Amnesty Watch has worked in Nigeria’s northeast and has teams of researchers and experts that were dispatched for the assignment.
The seven years of Boko Haram terrorists activities have greatly impacted Nigeria especially in the northeast of the country where Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Bauchi experience the brutality of insurgents.
Being the birthplace of the terror group, Borno remains the epicenter that has suffered the harshest form of depravity the group’s fighters have unleashed.
In the period beginning since 2009, Boko Haram freely attacked villages and communities in and around Borno often sacking entire districts, pillage and burn markets, kill residents and abduct children and women.
In 2013 youths in their thousands, armed with sticks, swords, bows, arrows, and in rare occasions Dane guns, formed vigilante groups to repel Boko Haram attacks. The vigilante groups came to be known as Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force).
Over the years, the Civilian JTF has contributed to the counter-insurgency war by deploying their knowledge of the terrain and familiarity with the locality to hunt down Boko Haram suspect, apprehend them and hand them over to security agencies.
The state government has streamlined the activities of the group through screening, training and absorbing some of them into state employment schemes.
It must be emphasized that none of these schemes is opened to minors and in most cases, those that got these assignments are above 24 years of age.
The finding from the investigation showed that even when the 2013 formation year of Civilian JTF is factored in the DoBs on record showed that those that were captured were of age, being older than 18 years old at the time of joining the group.
The claim that Civilian JTF is using child fighters is usually given weight by tying it to the forced recruitment of abducted children as Boko Haram fighters by the terrorists.
This strategy simply globalizes the forced engagement of children in the war without zeroing down on the party that is primarily responsible for the act, which makes it possible to blame the Civilian JTF for the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.
Published photographs and videos were also reviewed, which raised the prospect that the victory gatherings that follow successful operations against Boko Haram could have been misconstrued since children would usually mix up with Civilian JTF members in the course of Civilian JTF members in the course of cheering them on the streets.
No video or photographic evidence was found of minors engaging Boko Haram fighters.
This report found the allegation that the Civilian JTF recruited children as fighters to be an outright falsehood and lies that mark a descent to an unacceptable low for any reputable organization or entity to make.'
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