Boko Haram Insurgency: Over 1000 Children Abducted Since 2013

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) revealed on Friday that over 1,000 children have been abducted by the Boko Haram insurgent group from northeastern Nigeria since 2013. This includes the 276 girls forcibly taken from their secondary school dormitories in Chibok, Borno State by the insurgents in 2014.

In a statement on UNICEF’s website, by UNICEF representative in Nigeria Mohammed Falick Fall, it was disclosed that children are consistently targeted and exposed to brutal violence in their homes, schools, and public places.

“Since 2013, more than 1,000 children have been abducted by Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, including 276 girls taken from their secondary school in the town of Chibok in 2014. Four years on from that tragic incident, more than 100 of the ‘Chibok girls’ have yet to be returned to their families and the UN children’s agency continues to call for their release.”

Recently, the insurgents launched an attack on a secondary school in Dapchi, Yobe state and abducted 110 children. While 104 have been returned, five lost their lives, and one, Leah Sharibu, remains in captivity. Fall added that the Dapchi abduction is an indication that the space for children in the northeast is constantly shrinking.

“The recent attack on a school in Dapchi in which five girls lost their lives is just the latest indication that there are few safe spaces left for children in the northeast. Not even schools are spared from violence.”

Fall, who lamented the continued abduction of over 100 Chibok girls, condemned the repeated attacks against children, stating that they had the right to education and protection.

“The four-year anniversary of the Chibok abduction reminds us that children in northeastern Nigeria continue to come under attack at a shocking scale,” said Fall. “They are consistently targeted and exposed to brutal violence in their homes, schools and public places,” he added.

“These repeated attacks against children in schools are unconscionable, children have the right to education and protection, and the classroom must be a place where they are safe from harm,” Fall stated.

UNICEF explained that since 2009, at least 2,295 teachers have been abducted and more than 1,400 schools have been destroyed. A large number of these schools remain unopened because of the impact of the damages or the ongoing insecurity.

UNICEF said that the Nigerian authorities had made a commitment to ensure schools are safer and more resilient to attacks and further, have pledged continued support with them to implement the Safe Schools Declaration, by which, Nigeria commits to protecting schools and universities from violence and military use during armed conflict.

The UN agency appealed for an end to attacks on schools and all grave violations of children’s rights.

Children continue to be targets and victims of war. The Federal Government must work with international development partners to quickly implement the Safe Schools Declaration, and back up the declaration with actions. Also, the military must increase intelligence efforts and security measures in schools in the affected northeastern states of Nigeria.

Oraka Onome