The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has negotiated the release of close to 900 children detained by the Nigerian Army after they recaptured territories from the militants of Boko Haram Islamic sect.
Reuters quoted the UNICEF’s Regional Director for Western and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, as saying that the 876 children had been held in the barracks in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.
While on a visit to the north-eastern city, fontaine revealed that it was not immediately clear how long they had been held.
However, the army routinely detains civilians who have been living in areas that had been ruled by the insurgents on suspicion that they too might be linked to militant activities.
Nonetheless, rights groups said there was no proper legal process for such civilians, including the children.
They said that they were not formally charged and some ended up in so-called rehabilitation centres or Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps.
The United Nations said children should not be detained.
“We fear that there are still kids who are being at least temporarily detained because they are being released from Boko Haram areas by the army but then kept for a while,” Mr. Fontaine said.
The UNICEF’s Regional Director for Western and Central Africa gave no details of the ages of the children or how long they had been at the barracks.