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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has delisted the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) from armed groups recruiting children as soldiers in the North East.

According to him, the move is a step towards child protection.

UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Phuong Nguyen, in a statement yesterday in the Borno State capital, confirmed: “Guterres credited the delisting to a significant reduction in the number of children recruited into the ranks of the CJTF and the armed group’s commitment.”

She said the promise was to implement an action plan signed with the UN country task force on monitoring and reporting in 2017.

“This is to stop the recruitment and use of children in conflicts,” Nguyen restated in the statement.

She recollected that the group was formed in 2013 to support efforts of the Nigerian military to protect communities from Boko Haram attacks, stating that: “The Civilian JTF expanded in size and influence in the North East region.”

Besides, Nguyen added that since signing the agreement, the body has released more than 2,000 children from its ranks.

According to her, many of the kids have also been enrolled in school and provided with psychosocial support by UNICEF.

She lamented the recruitment of 3,500 children by parties to the conflict between 2013 and 2020, observing that girls and boys have been used as suicide bombers, spies, labourers, cooks, messengers and wives.

Nguyen warned that children recruited into armed groups often suffer from gender-based violence, including rape.

“Child soldiers are at a great risk of death or disability while undergoing armed training and initiation rites, as well as during combat,” she cautioned.

The UNICEF chief, therefore, advised the CJTF leadership to establish child protection units across its offices to prevent future recruitment of kids.

“It should consistently model its agreement to not use children for any kind of role,” she asserted.

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