By Aisha Usman
International Human Rights group, the Global Amnesty Watch (GAW) has called for caution as it declares it would investigate allegations of the use of child soldiers in the counter-insurgency war in the northeast of Nigeria which is in breach of the Child Soldier Prohibition Act (CSPA) 2008.
GAW, while reacting to the United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, which accused the Nigerian authorities of engaging persons below the age of 18 in military operations against terrorists in areas ravaged by Boko Haram, noted there was need to take the report in context to ensure no one inadvertently handed advantage to defeated terrorists to regroup.
The rights group in a statement signed by its Director, Africa Affairs, Mr. John Tom Lever explained that part of the shift the world urgently requires is to not adopt simplistic view of crisis situations because of fixation on international perspectives since such tend to come off with an air of imperial dominance while jeopardizing the interest of the vulnerable population that should be protected.
He said,informed by its experiences from its numerous field work in Nigeria’s northeast, the investigation to be conducted by the Global Amnesty Watch would explore how much of context could be brought to the report.
“For instance, we will like to establish if youths that were empowered with skills to be able to escape invading terrorists were stereotyped as “child soldiers” or whether persons whose growths were stunted as a result of the harsh environment brought about by terrorists’ activities were labeled as under age.
“We will also want to establish if young people in the quest for adventure and excitement lied to join the local Civilian JTF, which came about as a result of the determination of the people living in the affected area to defend themselves against the carnage being unleashed by Boko Haram terrorists. The extent to which, if any, incidents of underage persons involvement in the conflict was made known to military authorities would also be reviewed since information at our disposal is to the effect that the government troops do not enlist persons below the internationally accepted age bracket.”
According to Tom Lever, the findings of the investigation will be made public at the right time.
The group however cautioned interested parties to the Boko Haram insurgency to be cautious in their reports since there is the danger of the wording of some documents being construed as indicting the government and supporting the terrorists that made life a living hell for citizens.