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Further to coordinated efforts towards protecting Nigerian children from terrorism, the Federal Government has endorsed the handover protocol implementation plan with the United Nations for children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin today in Abuja.

Prior to the endorsement, the Honorable Minister of Women Affairs, Barr Uju Kennedy Ohanenye recalled that the handover protocol agreement was signed on 30th September, 2022 between the Federal Government and the United Nations system in Nigeria including UNICEF with spelt out procedures for the identification and transfer of children associated with armed groups, care for the children while in the custody of Nigerian security agencies and arrangements for cross-border repatriation of children who are non-nationals.

She added that since the 2022 endorsement, significant results have been achieved with 153 children ( 60 girls and 93 boys) have been released by the Nigerian security agencies in the North East, Nigeria and handed over to the Borno State Ministry of Women Affairs.

While commending the role of inter-agency collaboration to drive this initiative, the Minister also reiterated her Ministry’s readiness for multi-sector implementation of the plan and indicated that the agreement takes cognizance of matters relating the interest of the child such as their rescue, rehabilitation and re-union with their family and society to guarantee quality and full physical and psychological recoveries of the children encountered in the course of armed conflict in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin region.

She therefore urged the UN systems in Nigeria, UNICEF and other relevant stakeholders involved in the handover protocol endorsement to work towards scaling up plans towards achieving set goals as the Women Affairs Ministry has already integrated the handover protocol into this year’s budget as part of measures to sustainably tackle challenges faced by children encountered in the course of armed conflict.

There were goodwill messages from representatives of the National Coordinator, National Counter Terrorism Centre, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence Justice and Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, the representative of the Chief of Army Staff while the UN Country Representative, Mrs. Christian Munduate presented the context overview of the handover protocol.

In her presentation, the UN Country representative expressed concerns that the children who are victims of armed conflicts also face grave human rights abuses and called for collective efforts to ensure proper reintegration and rehabilitation of about 4.9 million children in the North East among whom, 1.2 million are presently displaced internally.

Part of strategies proposed for the smooth coordination and full implementation of the Handover protocol include advocacy among key stakeholders including international communities, data collection for evidence based programing, capacity building for government entities on child protection frameworks and legislation and building capacity for scale-up of child protection service delivery.

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