The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict (A/70/836–S/2016/360) issued on 20 April 2016.
Early in 2015, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, renamed Islamic State’s West African Province and commonly known as Boko Haram, controlled large swathes of territory in the north-eastern States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. In response, the Nigerian security forces intensified their military operations, in conjunction with the Civilian Joint Task Force, as well as local pro-Government vigilante groups, retaking control of territory. According to the Nigerian security forces, only two local government areas were under Boko Haram control (Abadam and Mobar in Borno State) by December.
As Boko Haram increasingly resorted to hit-and-run attacks on “soft targets”, the group also intensified its operations, including suicide attacks, which have spread from north-east Nigeria to Cameroon, Chad and the Niger, causing a significant number of casualties among civilians and large-scale displacement. Consequently, by the end of December, in excess of 1.8 million persons had been displaced within Nigeria, including more than 1 million children, and 220,304 were registered as refugees in neighbouring countries.
The United Nations verified the recruitment and use of 278 children (143 boys and 135 girls) by Boko Haram (225) and the Civilian Joint Task Force (53). Twenty-one girls were used in suicide attacks claimed by Boko Haram, 11 of which were documented in the fourth quarter. Children were used in suicide attacks not only in Nigeria, but also in Cameroon and Chad, with cases also reported early in 2016. Of the 1,010 children (422 boys and 588 girls) encountered or rescued during the course of military operations in north-east Nigeria, 204 (117 girls and 87 boys) had been recruited and used by Boko Haram. With regards to the Civilian Joint Task Force, children were used to man checkpoints and as messengers and spies.
Cases of 129 children detained for alleged association with Boko Haram were documented (69 boys and 60 girls), including 85 held in military barracks in Maiduguri, 22 at the Aguata camp in eastern Nigeria by the Office of the National Security Adviser, after passing through the Chad security corridor, and 21 girls in Lagos detained by the Nigeria Department of State Services and the Nigerian security forces. On 1 December, an 11-year-old boy was arrested in Maiduguri, reportedly for being a suspected “Boko Haram terrorist”, and his picture displayed on posters disseminated throughout Nigeria. The poster appeared to include at least three other boys. In November, the Nigerian security forces handed over to the Governor of Borno State 48 boys and 10 girls who had been in military detention in Maiduguri since August for alleged association with Boko Haram.
At least 5,480 persons were reportedly killed in 352 incidents, a decrease of 26 per cent compared with 2014. The United Nations verified the killing of 244 children (109 boys and 135 girls), mostly in Borno (130), Adamawa (54) and Yobe (48). Sixty-five of them were killed in 13 suicide attacks committed by children. A total of 112 children (54 boys and 58 girls) were also maimed.
In May and June, 253 children (84 boys and 169 girls) encountered during military operations participated in an “deradicalization programme” run by the Office of the National Security Adviser in a facility in Kaduna State, to which the United Nations was given access in June. The Office reported that four girls were pregnant as a result of sexual violence during their captivity and that all 68 mothers of the 112 children under 5 years of age had been either raped and/or were wives of Boko Haram members. The facility was closed down on 6 November, but it was unclear whether the women and children who returned to their communities or camps for displaced persons received reintegration support.
Since 2014, an estimated 1,500 schools have been destroyed in north-east Nigeria, including 524 in Borno State. This has prevented access to education for more than 400,000 children. Five schools were reportedly used for military purposes by Boko Haram in Bauchi State, and three schools by the Nigerian security forces since April 2014 in Maiduguri and Chibok Local Government Area, Borno State. To strengthen the protection of education, Nigeria endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, agreeing to use the Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict.
Abduction by Boko Haram continued, with 162 cases documented, of which the United Nations verified 26 (15 boys and 11 girls). In addition, 693 children encountered or rescued during military operations (327 boys and 366 girls) had reportedly been abducted. There is no indication whether any of the Chibok schoolgirls, abducted in 2014, were among those rescued.
Engagement with the Nigerian authorities continued, including on the handover of children encountered during operations by the Nigerian security forces to civilian authorities. In December, the United Nations assisted the National Human Rights Commission and the Nigerian security forces in organizing a workshop to review the military code of conduct and rules of engagement for operations against Boko Haram. With regard to efforts to combat impunity, I welcome the establishment of a human rights desk at the army headquarters tasked to investigate human rights violations committed by the military, and I encourage the inclusion of dedicated child protection capacity to investigate grave violations committed against children. I am concerned by the number of children recruited and used by the Civilian Joint Task Force and I call upon the Government to take swift action to prevent further cases.
Parties in Nigeria
1. Civilian Joint Task Forcea
2. Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, also known as Boko Harama,b,d,e
(a) Parties that recruit and use children.
(b) Parties that kill and maim children.
(d) Parties that engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals.
(e) Parties that abduct children.