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Nigeria: 10 Years after Chibok, Schoolchildren Still at Risk – HRW

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Nigeria: 10 Years after Chibok, Schoolchildren Still at Risk – HRW

…Urges Government To Implement Safe Schools Plan to Protect Schools, Children

By: Our Reporter

Ten years after the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigerian authorities have failed to put in place and sustain crucial measures to provide a secure learning environment for every child, Human Rights Watch said today.

Since 2014, according to Save the Children, more than 1,600 children have been abducted or kidnapped across northern Nigeria. In the northeast, the armed conflict between Boko Haram and Nigerian armed forces continues to take its toll and, in the northwest, criminal groups commonly called bandits are terrorizing communities. During February and March 2024 alone, bandits kidnapped over 200 children from their schools in Kaduna and Sokoto states.

“For many children across northern Nigeria, the pursuit of an education means facing the constant threat of abduction or kidnapping,” said Anietie Ewang, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Children should never face the harrowing dilemma of sacrificing their safety for education, but this untenable choice, which echoes the profound insecurity plaguing the country, is thrust upon them daily.”

On April 14, 2014, Boko Haram, an Islamist armed group, abducted 276 girls from their school in Chibok, a town in northeastern Borno state, sparking global outrage. Although some of the girls escaped, or were released or rescued, 96 remain in captivity according to UNICEF, and civil society groups continue to pressure the government to ensure they are rescued. Boko Haram, known for its opposition to education, has carried out other such abductions, including one of 110 girls from a school in Dapchi, a town in Yobe state, in 2018.

In addition to kidnappings by Boko Haram in the northeast, the ongoing banditry crisis in the northwest has in recent years made that area a hub for criminal kidnapping for ransom. The crisis emerged after years of conflict between herders and farmers, giving rise to the criminal groups, which have carried out widespread killings, looting, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom in mostly rural communities.

Between December 2020 and February 2021, a series of high-profile incidents, including the abduction of over 600 schoolchildren across Zamfara, Katsina, and Niger states, thrust the kidnapping issue into the spotlight.

In the aftermath of Chibok, the Nigerian government endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment to protect education from attack and schools from military use which turns them into targets. The government also adopted a Safe School Initiative for Nigeria with the support of the global community and Nigerian business leaders. The initiative aimed to raise funds with an initial US$10 million pledge to help make schools safer, including by moving them to safer areas and creating a safe school model for schools across Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, the three states worst hit by the Boko Haram insurgency.

However, the multi-stakeholder initiative faced problems, and there has been a decline in momentum over the years with little or no progress made in fortifying schools, Human Rights Watch said. In 2021, Nigeria’s then-Senate president Ahmad Lawan, following an investigation into the utilization of the funds for the initiative, declared that it was designed to fail without a National Policy and Strategy for the Safe School Initiative and the leadership of the Federal Education Ministry. In the meantime, communities continue to suffer the brunt of bandit attacks and schoolchildren remain vulnerable prey.

A Chibok girl who was in Boko Haram captivity for over two years, and was released with 20 others, told Human Rights Watch that news of school kidnappings brings back memories of her ordeal. “Whenever I hear that more children have been kidnapped, I feel terrible, helpless,” she said. “We are still not safe … It brings back memories of what happened to me. I can never forget being snatched from my parents, my family for so long. I pray this is not the case for those that are kidnapped.” She is now a 28-year-old university student studying natural and environmental sciences.

Kemi Okenyodo, an expert in security and governance and the executive director of the Rule of Law and Empowerment Initiative in Abuja, told Human Rights Watch that the ongoing school kidnappings, resembling those in Chibok a decade ago, highlight a failure to learn from past experiences, as they are taking place without adequate security infrastructure or intervention from authorities to prevent dozens or hundreds of children being snatched away at once.

Amid the heightened threat of attacks on schools, many have been forced to shut down completely, with more than 20 million children out of school in Nigeria, according to UNESCO, among the highest number in any country in the world. According to UNICEF, 66 percent of out-of-school children in Nigeria are from the northeast and northwest, which are among the poorest regions in the country.

For girls especially, the challenges are double edged. They risk rape and other forms of sexual violence if kidnapped, and if kept out of school, they risk child marriage, which is a common practice in these regions.

In 2021, the government adopted the National Policy on Safety, Security and Violence Free Schools aimed at improving school security, strengthening the capabilities of security agents to respond to threats, and ensuring that education continues for children displaced by conflict and crisis, among other reasons.

The authorities committed to investing 144.8 billion naira (about $314.5 million at the time) over a certain period to finance this initiative. In 2023, they announced that 15 billion naira (about $24 million at the time) had been earmarked to pilot the initiative in 18 high-risk states and 48 schools. However, details of the implementation are sparse, and it remains unclear the extent to which this has been done.

Okenyodo told Human Rights Watch that the government needs to involve communities in designing and implementing initiatives to make schools safer to create a sense of ownership and reduce inefficiency and corruption.

“Now more than ever, the Nigerian authorities should step up efforts to make learning safe for children,” Ewang said. “They should work with communities to adopt rights-respecting measures and put in place adequate financing, systems, and structures to ensure quick, effective, and transparent implementation to ensure that children can learn without being exposed to grave harm.”

Nigeria: 10 Years after Chibok, Schoolchildren Still at Risk – HRW

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UNODC Insists Proper Classification of Inmates would Make Correctional Facilities Truly Reformatory

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UNODC Insists Proper Classification of Inmates would Make Correctional Facilities Truly Reformatory

By: Michael Mike

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, (UNODC) has said with proper classification of inmates at correctional facilities across the country, correctional centres would truly become reformatory institutions.

Speaking at the training of officers of Nigerian Correctional Service, (NCoS) in Lagos on Tuesday, the Project Coordinator, Prisons and Penal Reforms, UNODC, Munchaneta Mundopa said it was imperative for proper classification of inmates at correctional centres, insisting that his would make administration at the various centres easy.

She added that it would also enable the needs of the various inmates to be met since the various classes of inmates have different needs.

The training which commences on Tuesday and runs through Friday is the second in the series as one was earlier held in Abuja. It is sponsored by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the U.S. State Department, (INL), and implemented by UNODC in Nigeria, with major focus on six prisons in Adamawa, Borno and Gombe States

She noted that “classification, empowers the Nigerian Correctional Service to tailor rehabilitation plans based on the individual needs and risks of an inmate. So rehabilitation does not need to be a ‘one size fits all’ approach, it needs to be tailored to the specific inmate(s), so that when they go out into the society they are able to harness the power of what they’ve learnt in prison.

“In our partnership with the Nigerian Correctional Service, we realize that while the list of classification systems currently exist, there is a gap in terms of implementation and also in aligning it to the Nelson Mandela Rules.

“Our project is sponsored by INL and is part of the work that we are doing in Nigeria in the space of prison and Penal Reforms. Broadly we refocus on three areas including improving prison conditions, strengthening the capacity of actors to look at alternative ways of dealing with the criminal justice system or alternatives to imprisonment.”

In attendance at the training are about 30 officers of NCoS selected across the country.

UNODC Insists Proper Classification of Inmates would Make Correctional Facilities Truly Reformatory

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We will stand behind you – UN assures, as States Action Plans for Durable Solutions in Northeast are launched

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We will stand behind you – UN assures, as States Action Plans for Durable Solutions in Northeast are launched

By: Michael Mike

The Federal Government and United Nations have launched the States Action Plans on Durable Solutions to Internal Displacement in Nigeria targeted at ending the displacement in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) States brought about by Boko Haram crisis.

United Nations Assistant Secretary General, and Special Adviser on Solutions to Internal Displacement, Robert Piper, speaking at
the launch held at the Presidential Villa Abuja, on Tuesday said: “We will stand behind you. Let me reiterate our commitment on behalf of the United Nations: We will keep supporting on the ground; We will help rally donors; We will chase missing partners; We will celebrate your successes,”

The Action Plans, according to him, are anchored in international standards and the Kampala Convention; driven by real political leadership; and are geared to mobilize development investments.

Piper explained that: “The plans you launch today provide a model of how governments can take responsibility for ending displacement.The plans recognise that displaced people can choose between going back home, properly integrating where they are right now or relocating elsewhere in the country.”

Vice President Kashim Shettima, on his part, emphasised that: “We must invest in sustainable development, education, and economic opportunities to build resilient communities. By doing so, we not only address the immediate needs of the displaced but also create a foundation for a more stable and prosperous future.”

He noted that the launch of the state Action Plans was meant to craft solutions that would outlive the present generation, and offer future generations a place of hope, a home for all, and a land of opportunity where dreams could be pursued without worry.

Shettima noted, “As we launch these State Action Plans, let us commit to collaborative efforts that transcend borders and political divides. Let us harness the strength of our partnerships, both local and international, to bring about lasting change. The task ahead is immense, but with determination, unity, and a clear vision, we can make a profound difference.”
 
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed commended the governments of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe for their actions to scale up solution pathways in their state action plans, noting that achieving durable solutions is a priority for both Nigeria and for the United Nations secretary general.

“Finding durable solutions to internal displacement is central to achieving the sustainable development goals in Nigeria and beyond, and they must become an integral part of development plans in areas affected by forced displacement.” Said the Deputy Secretary-General.

She emphasized that durable solutions required long term investments in infrastructure, education, health care, as well as in security and the enablers social contract with the people.

Mohammed added that “Our joint efforts must offer the promise of inclusive governance, human dignity, and a world where we leave no one behind.”
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Richard Montgomery, who spoke on behalf of the informal North-East Ambassador Group, emphasised that the group shared a collective interest in government’s efforts to bring peace to the North-East.

“We stand in support of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the current administration. As regards the durable solutions to internal displacement in the North-east, Montgomery noted, “No one country has the answer. We must join hands to ensure sustainable solutions to internally displaced persons (IDPs) issues in Nigeria.”

At the launch were the Governor of Borno State, H.E. Prof Babagana Zulum; Governor of Yobe State, H.E. Mai Mala Buni; Governor of Benue State, H.E. Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia; and Hon. Commissioner for Reconstruction Rehabilitation Reintegration & Human Service, Bello Hamman Diram, representing Adamawa State Governor, H.E. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri.
 
The publication of the United Nations Secretary General High Level Panel’s Report on Internal Displacement, and the accompanying Action Agenda on Internal Displacement created a pivotal moment in how durable solutions in situations of internal displacement are approached.

Building on the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the renewed attention to durable solutions puts a significant emphasis towards government-led and -owned processes.

In line with this recommendation, and following the visit of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to Borno in May 2022, theauthorities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe initiated a process to develop their own action plans to address internal displacement as part of overall and long term development of their state.

Progress towards durable solutions requires an approach that steps away from a needs-based way of working towards an area-based approach. The activities, processes and budget elaborated on in the State Action Plans, ensure that attention is given to all communities affected by displacement – including internally displaced persons, returnees as well as members of the host communities. Addressing forced displacement in this way bears the promise for the State Action Plans to contribute to the overall development of the state and to leave no one behind.

Through their State Action Plans, the authorities acknowledge the need to ensure that methodologies, processes, and activities which form part of the vision to achieve durable solutions need to be evaluated in a timely manner with an aim to amend and strengthen their approach to achieving solutions. As an integral part of the overall governance system
for durable solutions, the people-centered approach described in the monitoring and
evaluation chapters will significantly contribute to ensure displacement affected communities participate in the overall development of the state.

All plans recognize the need to maintain humanitarian assistance where needed, work around preventing future displacement andprogressing solutions where possible.

Driving these plans forward and recognizing the longer-term systematic sustainability that is needed, ambitious budgets have beendeveloped. While a significant amount of these budgets is reserved for access to housing –including elements related to secure tenure –they cater to a wider set of interventions such as economic development and access to services.

We will stand behind you – UN assures, as States Action Plans for Durable Solutions in Northeast are launched

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ECOWAS Doing It Can to Make Mali, B/Faso, Niger Rescind Their Exit Decision- ECOWAS VP

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ECOWAS Doing It Can to Make Mali, B/Faso, Niger Rescind Their Exit Decision- ECOWAS VP

By: Michael Mike

The Vice President of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Damtien Tchintchibidja has revealed that the regional bloc was doing all it could to make Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger rescind their decision to exit.

Tchintchibidja described the efforts at getting the trio back as “work in progress,” gave the comment in an interview with journalists in Abuja an event set to mark at ECOWAS @ 49 Celebration, dedicated to sensitizing young students in Abuja about the missions, achievements, and vision of ECOWAS for the future.

He said: “Well, it’s still a work in progress, quite frankly, for us it’s heartbreaking to know that three member states would like to exit from this community.

“We are stronger as a community. It’s like a family. You know, you’re always stronger when the family is unified, united.

“And for us, we are still working at it, you know, we still engage in negotiations with these member states to ensure that they remain within our community.

“But even if they were to leave, they still remain our brothers and sisters.

“As you know, our borders are porous, where citizens have families all across our borders, and we are all one people,” Tchintchibidja said.

The intention of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to exit ECOWAS was made known in January after the coup in Niger received a backlash from the regional bloc who also slammed various sanctions on the three countries over the military takeover of power in their countries, which their military leaders considered irresponsible and unbrotherly.

Though ECOWAS has since February lifted the sanctions, but there is no public knowledge that the three departing countries may reverse their stand on membership.

ECOWAS Doing It Can to Make Mali, B/Faso, Niger Rescind Their Exit Decision- ECOWAS VP

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