Nigerian army on Thursday handed over 25 child soldiers recruited by the terror group Boko Haram to the government and an agency of the United Nations for rehabilitation.
The child soldiers, aged between eight and 16 years, were rescued separately during recent operations by troops in the northeast region of the country, said Olusegun Adeniyi, the theater commander of the army in Nigeria's northeast region.
Adeniyi, while handing over the child soldiers to the state government of Borno and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) at a ceremony in the state capital, Maiduguri, noted the exercise was in conformity with the global best practice.
"This is in line with the ongoing drive of the Nigerian army to abide by and sustain the protocol of the protection of the rights of the child associated with armed conflicts," Adeniyi said.
In this way, he said, the Nigerian army had demonstrated the commitment to the fight against Boko Haram with a specific focus on the protection of vulnerable groups who were mostly victims and forcefully conscripted and recruited by the armed group.
The exercise is also part of a holistic approach toward saving children who were forcefully recruited as child soldiers without any moral justification, Adeniyi said.
Most of the children, including 23 boys and two girls, were, according to the military official, severely abused and exposed to sexual violence.
He said their rehabilitation and reintegration into civil life was an integral part of the military's operations with other stakeholders.
This development brings to 44 the number of children released this year, said Pernille Ironside, the UNICEF Nigeria acting representative.
Ironside said the organization had rehabilitated a total of 2,499 people including 1,627 children since 2016.
"These are children taken away from their families and communities, deprived of their childhood, education, healthcare, and of the chance to grow up in a safe and enabling environment," she said.
"UNICEF will continue working to ensure that all conflict-affected children are reunited with their families, have hope of fulfilling their dreams and their human rights," she added.