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Published On: Thu, Sep 4th, 2014

Boko Haram, vigilante recruiting children – Report

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Boko HaramBy Umar Muhammad Puma & Ikechukwu Okaforadi with agency report.

An expert report released yesterday by the group, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict in Nigeria has revealed that children are bearing the brunt of much of the violence in northeastern zone of the country, including killings, rapes, abductions and attacks on schools.

The new report based on a six-week research mission earlier this year has exposed how the Boko Haram abducts boys, girls and forces boys to join their ranks or face death.

Watchlist research officer Janine Morna, author of the report called Who Will Care for Us? – Grave Violations in Northeastern said some times the group pressures families to have their children join Boko Haram.

According to her, the “most notorious” of these is the Civilian Joint Task Force that was formed in Borno State. It is now believed to be made-up of a number of different groups.

The report states that the civilian JTF initially brings in new recruits to avenge the deaths of family members, who had been killed at the hands of Boko Haram. However, as the group has come under increasing fire from Boko Haram, villages have described a process of recruitment where representatives from the civilian self-defense militia negotiate with chiefs of different villages for new members. This includes any able bodied member and children as young as 13-years-old.” One youth told Watchlist if you refuse to join you are killed.”

The report blamed the present scenario in the North East of Nigeria on Boko Haram militants, Nigerian security forces and self-defense militias {JTF)

“Of particular concern to Watchlist is the recruitment and use of children by Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram, as well as armed self-defense militia who operate in the northeast.”Mornia said

She disclosed that the children carry out surveillance and sometimes take part in attacks.

“Children are increasingly in the line of fire. Interviewees told Watchlist that they had seen children as young as 14-years-old working alongside Boko Haram to carry ammunition, set houses alight. They’d also seen children as young as 13-years-old among civilian self-defense militia.”

“In one case documented by Watchlist a 13-yearold who refused to join had two of his family members killed. In other cases, the group incentivizes disaffected, unemployed youth in Borno State and other areas of the northeast to join for money,” she said.

Mornia said that girls are not immune from taking part in the bloodshed even those as young as 10 years. It revealed how a young woman formerly abducted by the group told Watchlist of how she was made to raid hospitals during attacks, carry ammunition and in one case even slaughter somebody, who had been brought back to the camp.

Christian children, the report said, are often forced to convert to Islam by Boko Haram.

The report said that the conflict has displaced about 650,000 people primarily women and children and affected millions of others.

The Watchlist report called on the Nigerian government to take action to end the recruitment of child soldiers and to care for those who have been. It also recommends collecting evidence of violations and abuses.

Meanwhile, a senator representing Borno Central in the National Assembly, Ahmed Zannah has said the Boko Haram was killing at will, this is even as the insurgents are said to have seized Gulani, which is another big town in Yobe state without a shot being fired.

The terrorists were alleged to have seized Gulani in Yobe State on Tuesday and occupied the local council secretariat complex and the lodge.

The takeover of the town was said to have forced some residents to flee for fear of being killed.

However, following discordant tunes regarding the status of Bama, Senator Zannah has challenged both the Borno State Government and military authorities to take the media to Bama to verify their claims that the state’s second largest town had not been captured by the Boko Haram insurgents.

The senator, in a telephone chat yesterday with journalists said: “As I am speaking to you, Bama has been captured and the insurgents are on the prowl for any male, killing at will.”

Zannah, said: “Both the military and Borno State Government are lying to Nigerians, and to prove that I am the one misinforming the public, they should take journalists to the town to cross-check the facts.”

Zannah on Tuesday morning granted an interview to the BBC stating that Bama had fallen to the terrorist group.

However, the state government and youth vigilante group swiftly dismissed his claim, stating that Nigerian troops were in control of the town and that his statement was politically motivated.

Similarly, the army has rejected claims of Boko Haram taking over northern Borno

Also, Chairman Senate committee on defence, Senator George Sekibo has dismissed speculations that the insurgents have taken over several towns and villages in Borno State, saying it is only in one or two towns that the insurgents have stronghold.

Briefing journalists in Abuja, Sekibo said members of the National Assembly had resolved to meet President Goodluck Jonathan to find a lasting solution to the insurgency ravaging the north eastern part of the country.

 

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