UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Calls for Urgent Action to Protect Children in North East Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria – Children growing up in Nigeria’s northeast are in desperate need of protection from relentless violence, concluded Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, at the end of a weeklong visit in Nigeria.

The Special Representative traveled to Nigeria to assess the conflict’s impact on children. She met the country’s federal authorities, the authorities of Adamawa State, the United Nations, the diplomatic community, civil society and other partners to galvanize efforts to gather and verify information on grave violations committed against children. This will help the Government and its partners provide better protection for children and promote accountability.

In Yola, the Special Representative met with displaced people from the conflict-affected areas, including children and women.

“I witnessed people’s shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities. I saw trauma in children’s eyes. The scale of the suffering is beyond what I anticipated to find. The people I met demand and deserve urgent protection” said Leila Zerrougui.

In northern Nigeria, over 900, 000 people, many of them women and children, have fled their homes. More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed, hundreds of children have been killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools.

Throughout 2014, the armed conflict in north-eastern Nigeria was one of the world’s deadliest for children. There was a dramatic rise in violence, growing recruitment and use of children, sometimes very young, as well as countless abductions and attacks on schools. The Special Representative is also concerned by reports of sexual violence against girls, including forced marriages and rapes.

The beginning of 2015 brought relentless violence with the appalling suicide bombing committed by a girl allegedly as young as ten, killing several people in a market in Maiduguri, as well as what some organizations have termed as Boko Haram’s deadliest attack in Baga.

The Special Representative was encouraged by her open dialogue with Nigerian authorities and their commitment to collaborate with the United Nations, investigate allegations of violations committed against children and take the necessary actions to hold perpetrators accountable.

“I commend the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for his willingness to respond to reports of recruitment and use of children by government-affiliated self-defense groups in the three north-eastern states. He has agreed to issue an advisory recalling the prohibition of such a practice,” said Leila Zerrougui.

The Special Representative also met with the representatives of the movement “Bring Back our Girls” and remains deeply concerned by the fate of the more than 200 school girls abducted in Chibok in April 2014. She is equally concerned by the fate of all children abducted by Boko Haram. The United Nations continue their advocacy with Nigerian authorities and support all efforts that could lead to the children’s release.

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Note to editors:
Nigeria was included as a new country situation in the 2014 report of the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict. Boko Haram has been identified by the Secretary-General as a party to conflict that kills and maims children and attacks schools and hospitals.

The listing triggers the establishment of tools and mechanisms mandated by the Security Council to collect and verify information on violations against children. This will also allow us to better respond, improve the protection of children and also to promote accountability.

For additional information, please contact:
Stephanie Tremblay
Communications, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Tel: +1 212 963 8285, Mobile: +1 917 288 5791 (mobile)
tremblay@un.org