From Timothy Olanrewaju, Maiduguri

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has welcomed the delisting of the state-backed Civilian Joint Task (CJTF) from armed groups recruiting and using child fighters, especially in counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria’s North East.

UNICEF in a statement on Monday said the delisting of CJTF from armed groups using child fighters was a step forward in the protection of children in the country.

‘This is a welcome development for the children of Nigeria,’ Phuong T Nguyen, UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, was quoted in the statement.

She said the removal of the CJTF was just the first step in the line of the UN move to reduce the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF. She urged the group to set up child protection units in all its base in Borno State.

UNICEF said it followed the group’s commitment to the implementation of an Action Plan it signed with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) in 2017 to stop the recruitment and use of children

‘Children used as soldiers are at great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat. They are forced to witness or participate in tortures and killings, triggering lifelong physical and mental health challenges,’ it said

The CJTF was formed by a group of youths in June 2013 to halt the increasing killings and attacks by Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno State.

It later grew to an army of combats with more volunteers and recruits including teenagers contrary to the UN convention on armed conflict and protection of children in conflict zones.

The development made the UN list the CJTF among armed groups in Africa using child soldiers. The UN thereafter set up a plan monitored by UNICEF after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the group to drop all children fighters in its ranks.

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Source: news