Nigeria has released 86 children and youth on Thursday, November 07, from a military prison. This is in addition to the 25 released in September. With the help of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Nigerian Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, they will soon be reunited with their families, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
Since 2013, Nigerian authorities have detained thousands of children. The vast majority are never charged with a crime or brought before a judge. They are held for months or even years, cut off from the outside world and their families. Children interviewed described brutal beatings, deadly heat, frequent hunger, and being packed in squalid cells with hundreds of other detainees.
Several months ago, HRW travelled to northeast Nigeria to interview children who had been imprisoned on suspicion of being members of the extremist armed group Boko Haram.Their stories are horrifying.
One is a boy who was detained when he was only five years old. Another – whose village had been attacked by Boko Haram – said he was detained for two years simply for selling yams to Boko Haram members in an effort to make money for his family. Many said they had actually been arrested while fleeing Boko Haram fighters.
When HRW released its report in September, the Nigerian government issued a statement denouncing the findings and denied that they detain children. But within just 24 hours, the military initiated the release of 25 children from Giwa barracks, where most of the children HRW interviewed were held. The youngest was just 7.
HRW said releasing children from military detention is an important step. But the Nigerian military still denies the United Nations access to its military prisons. Without independent monitoring, there is no way of knowing how many children may still be imprisoned. (Source: HRW)