A militia fighting against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria has released 833 children from its own ranks, some as young as 11, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.
UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was formed in 2013 by vigilante groups in Borno state to fight Boko Haram which itself gained international notoriety for kidnapping schoolgirls in the town of Chibok.
The CJTF signed an action plan in September 2017 to end child recruitment, and the release of the children, 40% of whom were 15 or younger, was its first formal release.
“This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or support roles,” UNICEF Nigeria Deputy Representative Pernille Ironside said in a statement.
The released children were among 1,175 boys and 294 girls who had been identified as being associated with the CJTF in the city of Maiduguri, UNICEF said, although the total has yet to be verified and could include another 2,200 or more children.
It said that it had supported the social and economic reintegration of more than 8,700 children released from armed groups since 2017, helping trace their families, returning them to their communities and offering them psycho-social support, education, vocational training and informal apprenticeships.