Where are the children

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

With children being one of the most vulnerable demographics by reason of their tender years, Nigeria is not exactly an easy place to be a child especially with the insecurity that now poses an existential danger to the country.

Perhaps, more than any other demographic, it is children who have borne the most painful witness to the danger that lives and breathes in Nigeria. Many of them have been killed or abducted; many of them have watched the killing and decimation of their families so early in life. For many of them, school and the delicately delicious memories it brings is now firmly rooted in the past, unable to exist in a future already uprooted by conflict and chaos.

As the United Nations Agency responsible for children, UNICEF has seen a fair share of the horrors children have been forced to live as conflicts have raged around the world. From seeing children cut down as innocent victims of brutal wars to seeing children die from famine and malnutrition, or suffering from the incomparable uncertainties of displacement, UNICEF has almost always been there as an unflinching witness to the injustices done to children even in the remotest parts of the world.

UNICEF recently revealed in a statement that no fewer than 1,436 school children have been abducted in Nigeria, mainly in the North-central and North-west regions, in the last two years. According to the statement by UNICEF`s representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, sixteen school children lost their lives to different non-state armed attacks in the federation while 17 teachers were kidnapped from schools even as a total of 11,536 schools were closed since December 2020 due to abductions and security issues.

There is no doubt that the figures may be a bit higher especially with the paucity of data that is part of Nigeria`s challenges in confronting hydra headed insecurity. However, the figures available remain frightening.

If indeed children are the leaders of tomorrow, then the relentless attacks which confront them are aimed at leaving the ship of the country rudderless and leaderless.

The attacks have been unyielding even as the attackers have been unsparing. In the last one year alone, hundreds of school children have been taken away from their schools in Kaduna and Niger States. While some of them died in the hands of their captors, others were not released until their families coughed up millions of naira as ransom. That the men responsible for these iniquitous crimes remain free and have since carried on their criminal enterprise mercilessly mocks the much vaunted capacity of the Giant of Africa to punish and deter.

Many children are not safe in Nigeria. That from so early in their lives, children have to live with the peculiar anxieties of looking over their shoulders or sleeping with only one eye shut forebodes a future in ropes.

Those who attack children know that attacking the source cuts off supplies. It is why they have been so relentless and so ruthless.

If Nigeria is to stand a chance, no matter the chaos playing out in the deserts of Zamfara or in the forests of Nigeria, all resources will be channeled to ensure that children are able to continue to lead normal lives uninterrupted by the crimes of those who want Nigeria in their twisted image.

Kene Obiezu,

keneobiezu@gmail.com

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