Military Operations: Nigeria, UNICEF Sign Handover Protocol to Protect Children
By Jack Acheme, Kano
The Nigerian Goverment, the United Nations and UNICEF have signed Agreement on the Handover Protocol for children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin Region.
The Handover Protocol is a practical tool to prevent or reduce the detention of children encountered by military and security forces during armed conflict and presents an opportunity to identify and transfer children allegedly associated with armed groups within a period of seven days to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
Nigeria and UNICEF will continue to work together to ensure that children allegedly associated with armed groups receive appropriate, tailored social and economic reintegration assistance that supports the children’s, families’, and communities’ resilience and social cohesion through child protection, education, psychosocial support, and livelihood initiatives, vocational and skills development and life skills.
Under this Agreement, Nigeria, the United Nations, and UNICEF will appoint focal points to oversee the implementation of the protocol and develop a detailed operation plan to guide the implementation of the protocol.
They will also outline roles to ensure its operationalisation and share regular compliance reports on the implementation of the protocol with relevant authorities.
According to UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, “Today marks a historic moment for children who are victims of serious rights violations in north-east Nigeria. This positive undertaking in signing the Handover Protocol represents a significant milestone and demonstrate The Government of Nigeria’s commitment to upholding its obligations to establish and implement the minimum safeguards to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict.”
The protracted armed conflict in North-East Nigeria has resulted to mass displacement and humanitarian and protection crisis. From 2016 to September 2022, 4,204 children (2,866 boys, 1,338 girls) have been released from administrative custody by the Nigerian military and have received interim care services at the Bulumkutu Transit Center in Maiduguri, Borno State, including community-based social and economic reintegration assistance.