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UN Special Rapporteurs on sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution; contemporary forms of slavery; and the right to the highest attainable standard of health - Visit to Nigeria, 18 to 22 January 2016

Abuja, 22 January 2016

Members of the press,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we have completed a five day-visit to Nigeria to examine measures taken by the Government of Nigeria to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of women and children who escaped or were liberated from Boko Haram captivity.

During our five-day visit, we exchanged views with a number of interlocutors including representatives from the ministries, departments and agencies, namely, ministries of women and social affairs, health, justice and foreign affairs; and Office of the National Security Adviser, Nigerian Police Force, National Emergency Management Agency, Borno State Emergency Management Agency, the Victims Support Fund as well as the National Human Rights Commission, and members of the National Assembly. We also exchanged with the diplomatic community, civil society, including some of the parents of the missing Chibok girls and relevant UN agencies both in Abuja and Maiduguri. We visited the Dalori, Teachers village and Gubio IDP camps in Maiduguri and Kuje Prison De-radicalization Programme. We are very grateful to the women and children who graciously and generously shared their stories with us and the brave civil society groups that continue to work under very challenging conditions. We are also thankful to the Government of Nigeria for their cooperation and openness to discuss as well as the UNCT in Abuja and Maiduguri for facilitating this visit, in particular the Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team. We are very grateful to the women and children who graciously and generously shared their stories with us and the brave civil society groups that continue to work under very challenging conditions. We are also thankful to the Government of Nigeria for their cooperation and openness to discuss as well as to the UNCT in Abuja and Maiduguri for facilitating this visit, in particular the Human Rights Adviser to the UN Country Team.

We commend the initiatives taken so far by the Government to address the rehabilitation and reintegration of women and children. In particular, we welcome the robust legal and institutional frameworks, which exist in the country and which the State is building upon. They provide a solid basis for responding to the current challenges.

Yet, gaps remain in implementing policies and enforcing laws in a manner that makes a real difference in the lives of all, especially women and children affected by the insecurity and violence in the Northeast.

We have learnt of much progress in the management of IDPs camps and service delivery for displaced persons both in camps and host communities. The generosity of the host communities should be commended as, currently, an overwhelming number of IDPs, about 90%, reside in host communities. More efforts must be made to ensure that reintegration and rehabilitation programmes leave no one behind, wherever they may have settled. Health systems must be strengthened, so as to meet the physical and mental health needs of both the displaced and the host communities, in particular those of girls and women victims of sexual violence.

During our visits to camps in Maiduguri, we witnessed first-hand the health and social impacts of the conflict. We met with women and girls who reported limited access to services including adequate nutritious food, psychosocial support, education, and health, including sexual and reproductive health services.

In particular, efforts by the Government and international partners to provide skills development and livelihood opportunities, to ensure economic empowerment and to secure access to decent work should be increased. This will go a long way in ensuring IDPs have the necessary skills and the opportunities to build normal lives as well as integrate in their former or new communities. We welcome the computerized registration and profiling of displaced persons.  This is a good step in the right direction and should be accompanied with a tracking system for follow up, particularly, women and children subjected to gendered specific violence. Also, whilst in the camps, we saw the high number of unaccompanied children who face specific vulnerabilities and risks, such as sexual exploitation. We hope that current and future measures for the region pay specific attention to the needs of these children.

A protection gap is evident, especially in service delivery and access to justice for women and girls victims of Boko Haram. Real and concerted efforts are needed at the Federal and State levels to secure accountability and address impunity for sexual violence, including child and forced marriage. Furthermore, the right of victims to a just and effective remedy is paramount to their recovery and reintegration.

As the region transits from relief to recovery, it is important to ensure that rehabilitation and reintegration measures are grounded in human rights norms and take into consideration the regional impact of the conflict on women and children. These measures must aim to fundamentally transform society for the better while addressing the immediate needs of women and girls. They must also address root causes especially discrimination, deprivation, exclusion and gender inequality.

In this regard, the development of policies, frameworks and other measures must be participatory and based on consultations with the affected population. This should include forward planning in order to manage the possible future consequences for children, in particular boys associated with the Civilian Joint Task Forces (CJTF).  Government policies must be well resourced and backed by political will in order to avoid the fate of previous initiatives aimed at addressing inequality.

There is also an urgent and pressing need for effective measures to address stigma, ostracism and rejection of women and children who have been associated with Boko Haram because of their captivity by their families and communities. Efforts at community cohesion, peacebuilding and reconciliation must start now and accelerate as people begin to return from displacement.

While we note the efforts of the Government to locate and liberate all missing persons in the context of the conflict and the investigation launched, the lack of information on the steps taken to find abducted persons, including the Chibok girls, and document cases of kidnappings and abductions remains a source of major concern.

The education and the health sectors have been the most affected. Health workers working on family planning and providing lifesaving immunization services, together with teachers, have been killed, kidnapped and their families threatened. Hospitals and schools have been burnt down and ransacked and schools are used to house IDPs. It is critical to ensure that all school sites are reopened promptly and all children, in particular girls are able to access free and quality primary education without fear.

The current comprehensive approach to addressing challenges in the North East provides a good opportunity not only to reintegrate women and children affected by Boko Haram but also to strengthen the health and educational sectors which are crucial for peace, security and sustainable development in Nigeria.

Effective collection of disaggregated data both in the context of screening for various programmes, including in countering violent extremism, remains both a challenge and an urgent priority. The prison based programme is complex with key areas where it needs improvement and support. More assistance from all partners including in the collection of reliable and timely human rights information remains crucial. The strengthening of the existing independent human rights monitoring linked to national mechanisms should also be a priority.

We will present a report on this visit to the UN Human Rights Council in the course of 2016. 

Thank you.