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US accuses Nigeria of using child soldiers

….We don’t have child soldiers—Army
…Says nobody has ever joined Army before age of 18

By Joseph Erunke

A United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report has accused Nigeria of involving children under the age of 18 in its military operations in “hostile environments.”

But the Army in a swift reaction, dismissed the report as not only baseless but designed to tarnish its hard-earned image.

The report listed Nigeria among countries to face restriction for allegedly violating the Child Soldier Prohibition Act, CSPA, 2008.

Other countries also accused of violating the act in the report include Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The countries were said to have committed the said offences between April 1, 2016 and March 30, 2017, when the report was compiled.

The report accused the Nigerian Security Forces ,NSF, of “using children as young as 12 years old in support roles”.

“NSF has continued to detain and arrest children for alleged association with Boko Haram, some of whom may have been forcibly recruited,” the report read.

“Governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment.

“The CSPA, as amended, prohibits assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities: international military education and training, foreign military financing, excess defence articles, and peacekeeping operations, with exceptions for some programmes undertaken, pursuant to the peacekeeping operations authority.

Army

“The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments.

“Beginning October 1, 2017, and effective throughout the fiscal year 2018, these restrictions will apply to the listed countries, absent a presidential national interest waiver, applicable exception, or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA.

“The Nigerian military also conducted on the ground coordination with the Civilian Joint Taskforce, CJTF, non-governmental self-defence militias that continued to recruit and use children possibly unwillingly and mostly in support roles with at least one of which received state government funding.

“Government officials, including military, police, and federal and state officials, were involved in the widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram, at times forcing women and girls in internally displaced persons, IDPs, camps to provide commercial sex acts in exchange for food.

“Furthermore, despite identifying a large number of labour trafficking victims, the government only convicted two labour traffickers and it decreased funding for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and other Related Matters, NAPTIP, including its budget for victim services. Therefore, Nigeria was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.”

The CSPA is a US law signed on October 3, 2008, under George Bush, the country’s former president.

It criminalises the involvement of children, under 18, in any form of employment in hostile military settings.

We don’t have child soldiers —Army

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army has dismissed the report, describing it as not only baseless but also intended to tarnish its hard earned reputation.

According to the Army, everyone in Nigeria knows that it has never engaged soldiers less than the age of 18 in its service.

To this end, it urged people to disregard the report which it noted, was carried out with motive to tarnish its hard earned reputation.

Brigadier-General Sani Usman, Director Army Public Relations, insisted that the Nigerian Army was without a single underaged soldier.

“The report is baseless because even you know that we don’t have child soldiers, our recruitment system is open and transparent. Nobody has ever joined the Nigerian Army before the age of 18,” he added.


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