Lagos - Nigeria has joined the international community in commemorating Children’s Day amid concern at the use of minors to perpetrate terrorist acts by the Boko Haram sect.
Locally, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the choice of the theme of violence against children and the urgent need to stop it was apt and timely.
Officials said it spoke eloquently to the current difficult circumstances facing children in Nigeria today especially in the Northeast.
Children bear the biggest brunt of the insurgency with the conflict having severely constrained full scale provision of health services thereby threatening their right to survival.
In Borno State, the region worst affected by terror, children have not been to school for more than one year.
More children and women have been used as suicide bombers in Northeast Nigeria in the first five months of this year than during the whole of last year, according to reports collated by UNICEF.
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In 2014, 26 suicide attacks were recorded compared to 27 attacks as of May 2015.
In at least three-quarters of these incidents, children and women were reportedly used to carry out the attacks.
Girls and women have been used to detonate bombs or explosives belts at crowded locations, such as market places and bus stations.
“Children are not instigating these suicide attacks; they are used intentionally by adults in the most horrific way," said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.
"They are first and foremost victims - not perpetrators."
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It was gathered that since July 2014, nine suicide incidents involving children aged between approximately seven and 17 years - all of them girls
- have been reported.
Their identity and exact ages have not been verified, as estimates are based primarily on eyewitness accounts.
An estimated 743 000 children have been uprooted by the conflict in the three most affected states in Nigeria; the number of unaccompanied and separated children could be as high as 10 000, according to UNICEF estimates.
"Many children have been separated from their families when they fled the violence, and have no one to look after them," said Gough.
"Without the protection of their families, these children are at greater risk of exploitation by adults, and this can lead to involvement in criminal or armed group activities."
Children's Day is celebrated on May 27 in Nigeria. It is a public holiday for Primary and Secondary school children.
- CAJ News