The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) promised again on Monday that all children kidnapped by Boko Haram terrorists would be set free during his regime.
He spoke at a breakfast dialogue on ‘‘Stop the War on Children Affected by Armed Conflicts, Dividend of Silencing the Guns’’, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, held on the margins of the ongoing 33rd African Union Summit.
Nigeria, Uganda, Norway, the AU Commission and Save the Children sponsored the dialogue.
Buhari said, ”A number of schoolgirls from Chibok and Dapchi earlier abducted by Boko Haram have regained their freedom.
”We commend the gallant efforts of the Multi-National Joint Task Force and the partners in supporting the reintegration of the girls.
”Let me categorically reassure you of the steadfast commitment of the Government of Nigeria to ensure the freedom of all kidnapped children from the shackles of Boko Haram.
”We will not relent until every child, boy, or girl, every Nigerian adult in custody of Boko Haram, is freed.”
Among the children being held is Leah Sharibu, the Dapchi schoolgirl denied freedom on account of refusing to denounce Christianity.
It was reported that 276 girls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, 2014, by Boko Haram but 57 of the girls escaped to safety almost immediately.
The insurgents eventually went away with 219 of them. Over a number of years, 107 of the Chibok girls regained freedom but till date, 112 are missing.
A State House statement on Monday said Buhari urged African countries and stakeholders on the continent to strengthen the protection of children from the six grave violations during armed conflict.
He noted that the six grave violations were killing and maiming of children; recruitment or use of children as soldiers; sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools or hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access for children.
Buhari added, ”It is for this reason that the Nigerian government has severally condemned, and is combating frontally the dreadful activities of terrorist groups like Boko Haram and the so-called Islamic State.
”Of course, the severity of these grave violations varies from country to country.
”The incidence of a single violation of children rights in any country is an indelible dent on the African consciousness and is to be deplored and condemned,” he said.
He told AU leaders that they must continue to protect children, taking time to brief the session on efforts Nigeria had made so far to do so
”To stem the tide of out-of-school children, Nigeria embarked on an all-inclusive reconstruction of schools vandalised by the ravaging terrorist activities of Boko Haram, while returning children are rehabilitated and reintegrated into society.
”Our nomadic education policy is also being implemented to reduce the number of out-of-school children. We have also prioritised de-radicalisation and de-mobilisation of ex-combatant children of Boko Haram insurgents”, his media aide, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted him as saying.
Buhari made a call on the AU Peace and Security Council to spearhead the strategy to stop the war on children and adopt the Child Protection Architecture within the African Peace and Security Architecture and the Roadmap on Silencing the Guns.
He added, ”The call to action is now for accountability by all African States to the rights of the children caught up in wars.
”Let us stop the war on children. This is a wake-up call for us all to create the enabling environment for rooting out the impact of armed conflicts against our children across the continent”