Yazatu Abdullahi is 12 years old, she may have been among the 809 community guards, known as Civilian Joint Task Force(CJTF) killed by the dreaded Boko Haram group in North East Borno State. – But She was not afraid to die in defending her community.
Yazatu was only 8 years old in 2014 when she and many other children were conscripted into the CJTF, a group of youths whose weapons were sticks, matches and in some instances, dane guns to confront trigger-happy AK 47 Boko Haram terrorists.
Although Yazatu role was not combative as having a direct confrontation with the invading insurgents neither was she required to hold light weapon to defend herself, her preoccupation and many of her mates were supportive – She ferries food to her father – who is a member of the CJTF.
Yazatu whose uncle Abdullahi Sheriff was killed during one of the Boko Haram attacks in Maiduguri said the fear of death was the least on her mind.
“I was never scared to die. I always take food to my father at his location where he and other CJTF are stationed to fight any invading Boko Haram fighters.” Yazatu said.
But, now, a new dawn is setting in for Yazatu and other children used by CJTF to defend their communities against Boko Haram fighters in Borno State.
At an event on Friday in Maiduguri, Borno State – the epic centre of Boko Haram nine (9)-year old insurgency, Yazatu was among the 833 children released from the ranks CJTF as part of the fulfilment of an action plan signed by the United Nations (UN) representative and the CJTF to end recruitment and use of children for armed conflict.
The event which was graced by the presence of Deputy Representative UNICEF in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside and United States Ambassador to Nigeria, W. Stuart Symington was centred on the need to end the use of children for armed conflict across the world.
Nigeria’s 9-year old Boko Haram crisis led to the formation of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF ) – a group saddled with the responsibility of assisting the Nigeria Military forces; unfortunately, many children are members of the CJTF.
According to deputy representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, the event marks the first formal release of children from the CJTF since September 2017 when the group signed an action plan to end and prevent children from recruitment following a listing in the annexes of the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of Children
“The release of these children from CJTF shows commitment to implement the provisions of the Action Plan and to uphold the international humanitarian law, human rights laws as well as other regional and national legislation, protecting children’s rights.
“This is a significant milestone in ending the recruitment and use of children, but many more children remain in the ranks of other armed groups in either combat or supportive roles. We call on parties to stop recruiting children and let children be children.” Deputy representative of UNICEF in Nigeria and the Co-chair of United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave child rights violations (CTFMR) said.
Ambassador of the US to Nigeria who went around hugging the release children urged them not to disappear but be optimistic about their useful contribution to their communities and the world in the future.
“This may be just one child released today but she has a lot to offer Nigeria and all of us in the future” Ambassador W. Stuart Symington said referring to one of the released children.
As for Yazatu, it’s time to go back to school fully. There would be no need to ferry food to her father in the battle area anymore but to concentrate on her studies.
“I’m very happy that I will be going back to school,” Yazatu said with a smile on her face.