Watchlist welcomes the inclusion of Nigeria by the US Department of State on the 2015 list of governments responsible for recruiting or using children in their armed forces, or for supporting militias or other armed groups that used child soldiers during the previous year.
The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 (CPSA) is meant to bar the United States from providing military assistance to countries included on the list, which was published on July 27, 2015 as part of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report . However, the law also offers the President with the opportunity to invoke “national interests” to waive the sanctions and allow the government to receive US military aid. Also included in the list are the Governments of Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
The recent listing of Nigeria comes one year after Watchlist released its report ‘Who Will Care for Us? Grave Violations against Children in Northeastern Nigeria’ on the situation of children affected by the conflict in Nigeria. The report highlights the recruitment and use of children by civilian self-defense militia, often collectively referred to as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), in many cases by force, to man checkpoints, gather intelligence, and participate in armed patrols. The Borno State government has provided financial and in-kind resources to support some of the Borno-based members of the CJTF.
In January 2015, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for children and armed conflict (SRSG), made a visit to Nigeria to assess the situation of children affected by the conflict. As a result of the visit, the Attorney General of Nigeria committed to producing an advisory recalling the prohibition of recruitment and use of children by government-affiliated self-defense groups. The advisory was released soon after but it failed to condemn the CJTF, while stressing the responsibility of Boko Haram for recruiting and using child soldiers.
Following the release of the list, President Obama has 45 days to decide whether he will grant Nigeria a waiver. The United States has significant capacity to influence foreign governments to adopt measures to protect children from recruitment and use as child soldiers. The government of Nigeria should do more to protect those children before it receives additional military assistance.