– About 900 children detained by Nigeria’s army and security forces have regained freedom
– Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’S Regional Director for Western and Central Africa, said that 876 children were held in the barracks at Maiduguri
Nearly 900 children detained by Nigeria’s army and security forces have been released by the United Nations after they have retaken the land from Boko Haram militants, a senior official said.
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’S Regional Director for Western and Central Africa, said that 876 children had been held in the barracks in Maiduguri, after visiting the north-eastern city.
However, the army routinely detains civilians who have been living in areas that had been ruled by the insurgents on suspicion that they too might be linked to militant activities.
Nonetheless, rights groups said there was no proper legal process for such civilians, including the children, adding that they should not be detained.
They said that they were not formally charged and some ended up in so-called rehabilitation centres or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
He give no details of the ages of the children or how long they had been at the barracks .
When President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015, security forces began an offensive. The security force were backed by neighbouring countries, to retake territory from Boko Haram, meaning at least some of the children could have been held for a year or more.
Army officials say they need to question civilians to establish whether they have any ties with the militant group, which has been trying for seven years to set up an Islamic state.
The security situation remains volatile in Borno and its capital Maiduguri because Boko Haram still stages suicide bombings, often using women or teenagers.
Fontaine also said the conflict, which had killed thousands and displaced more than two million, had separated around 20,000 children from their parents, of which 5,000 had since been reunited with families.
Recall that with the help of Switzerland, Nigeria this month negotiated, the release of 21 of more than 200 girls Boko Haram sect kidnapped in April 2014.
A government source who spoke to BBC Africa revealed that the terrorists dropped the girls in the Banki area of Borno state where they were subsequently picked up by a military helicopter. Some of the mothers of the abducted girls have called on President Buhari to help locate their children.