By OKOSUN OKHUELEIGBE
THE red lines have been drawn and the time is fast ticking away as December deadline to end Boko Haram’s madness kicks us in the face.
It becomes more interesting especially as the military have vowed to liberate Nigeria from the shackles of insurgency that have infested the country like a behemoth since 1999.
As all the military high command are perfecting strategies to sweep out all renegade remnants, who have in the last few months attacked both hard and soft targets killing hundreds of people. There have being growing concern over the use of child soldiers and teenage wearing hijabs to penetrate places and detonate bombs.
Unfortunately and more disturbing too, is the constant bomb explosions that wreaked havoc recently. The recent blast during the launch of a mosque near old hall camp in Jambutu in Yola, Adamawa state which killed scores of worshippers and the blast that happened at Jiddari Polo area when Muslims were performing the first congregational prayer of the day and those that took place at Internally Displaced Persons centres (IDP), the two incidences in Abuja are incidents too many.
The bomb explosions said to have been detonated by young suicide bombers within the circumference of the mosque fuels earlier suspicion that if the war against Boko Haram must be won comprehensively, the activities of child soldier or young machineries wearing hijab; who sneaked into the vicinity of the mosque before the prayer commenced cannot be ignored.
Their ubiquity is making security experts to suggest that if the war against Boko Haram must be won effectively and avoid a recurrence of similar circumstances that had characterised the nation; the military must do everything possible to root out child soldiers who have been conscripted into the unholy war against the masses by Boko Haram.
However, as the war against terrorism grew in length and breadth across the country, the use of little young lads alleged to be fighters for the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, have prompted Nigerians to begin to ask the military to concentrate more energy at smoking out these young children if December liberation deadline must be a reality. Despite the Presidential mandate, these young kids would continue to form a clog in the will of progress as they have been sufficiently radicalized, brainwashed and sensitised to carry on the fight which might obliterate whatever success recorded by the military.
During the 2014 attack on Konduga in Borno State, the military captured some child soldiers fighting for Boko Haram. They had attacked some towns and villages in Adamawa State and during the invasion of Konduga, majority of insurgents killed on 30 September, 2014 were child soldiers.
With the adoption by Islamist sect of young boys and girls, and the forced recruitment, detention, attacks at school coupled with the yet to be released Chibok school girls and other abductions of young lads, it is not a palatable story as the deadline to end insurgency draws nearer.
The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Cameroon, Najat Rochdi said recently in Geneva that Boko Haram has kidnapped more than 1,000 children and use them as human shields. “The information I have is around 1, 500,” adding that they were mainly used as servants, to help carry tents and fetch water.
Unfortunately, recent attacks in Nigeria Cameroon and Niger revealed that most soft targets hit were made possible by the use of child soldiers or teenagers wearing hijabs. By their small nature, they sneak into places and detonate bombs. Therefore, more attention needed to be focussed on the use of these young lads by terrorist as bait to achieve their selfish desires. Some of them are as young as 8 years old, deployed in frontlines, a practice which is against the International Convention on human rights and the protection of the boy child.
Against this backdrop, resolution 1261 of the Security Council “strongly condemns” the abduction and recruitment of children in armed conflict hence the Council urged Member States in resolution 1314 “to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.” Also, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which came into force in November 1999, was the first regional treaty to establish 18 as the minimum age for all recruitment and participation in hostilities.
However, the unconventionality of Boko Haram insurgency blighted whatever provision outlined in the United Nations order. With Boko Haram jihadists spreading its tentacles into Cameroon, Niger and Chad with its horrendous violence, the military must understand that ending insurgency does not necessarily mean ending terrorism and should be on guide to rout out all splinter units in form of child soldiers/hijabs wearing teenagers.
The President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, (AISSON), Dr Ona Ekhomu warned the military to talk less and concentrate on the fight to rout insurgency. Explaining, he said “We tend to see the Presidential mandate to mean we would automatically win the war against terror. It is not a conventional war. It is a criminal incident. They are committed, radicalised and extreme. We need to identify and hardened the citizens and targets with the understanding that we have deadly struggle on our hands.”
He frowned at the seeming dialogue or the attempt to negotiate with Boko Haram warning the government to be careful with whoever they initiate conversation with might just be quack. “They are talking to quacks. Any person outside Abubakar Shekau if he is still alive is a charlatan. We have lost too many lives through insurgency,” he enthused.
According to Davidson Akhimien, the President of the Association of Licensed Private Security Practitioners of Nigeria (ALPSPN) told National Daily that the problem of child soldiers is not a thing to be left with the military alone to deal but should be holistically fought by all Nigerians. “Nigerians must be security conscious of the imminent threat child soldiers are posing. They are using child soldier as bombers. Children should be screened in public, religious and social gathering as they are fast losing their innocence. It is not for the military alone but the entire populace.”
He averred that “nothing the military can do about child soldiers. In the international convention, it is an offence to use child soldier. Therefore, it is outside the purview of the military especially as Boko Haram is not a conventional army,” he added.
However, Richard Amuwa, the Executive Producer, Security 24/7 on Radio and Television said the military cannot crunch Boko Haram in December blaming it on the unconventionality of the insurgents that will make it difficult for the military to engage them headlong. “The military cannot crunch Boko Haram in December just like we have always said this is not conventional war. It will take the security agencies and the people to stop Boko Haram,” he said.
With Boko Haram sufficiently degraded, and an upsurge in some adherents fleeing into other parts of the country, experts are of the view that the military should ensure that it spread its tentacles, cause a robust intelligence gathering that could galvanise and cut out of circulation Boko Haram sects.
With December deadline at hand, and the sparrowing attacks, opinion of some Nigerians is that the government should ban the use of hijab until there is gradual restoration of peace and insurgents completely defeated. As the count-down continues, it is expected that the federal government must challenge the Nigerian Police to expand its Community Engagement Strategy especially on crowded places management; tackling extremism in our educational sector as well as re-enforce the de-radicalisation policy.