Again, U.S. Indicts Nigeria, Other Countries of Using Child Soldiers

The United States 2017 Trafficking in Persons report has again listed Nigeria among countries to face restriction following allegations of culpability in the violation of the Child Soldier Prohibition Act, CSPA 2008.

According to the report, released Tuesday, the countries listed among those to have violated the act will face stipulated restrictions, based on provisions of the CSPA, between October 1 and the 2018 fiscal year.

“Governments identified on the list are subject to restrictions, in the following fiscal year, on certain security assistance and commercial licensing of military equipment. The CSPA, as amended, prohibits assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities: international Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations, with exceptions for some programs undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations authority. The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments. “Beginning October 1, 2017, and effective throughout Fiscal Year 2018, these restrictions will apply to the listed countries, absent a presidential national interest waiver, applicable exception, or reinstatement of assistance pursuant to the terms of the CSPA,” the report said. The CSPA is a U.S. law, signed on October 3, 2008, under President George Bush. The law criminalises the involvement of children, under 18, in any form of employment in hostile military settings. According to Tuesday’s report, the nature of employment described above include; “support roles, such as -a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.”

“For the purpose of the CSPA, and generally consistent with the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the term “child soldier” means: (i) any person under 18 years of age who takes a direct part in hostilities as a member of governmental armed forces; (ii) any person under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces; (iii) any person under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces; or (iv) any person under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state.

The term “child soldier” includes any person described in clauses (ii), (iii), or (iv) who is serving in any capacity, including in a support role, such as a “cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard, or sex slave.” Although the U.S. government can waive the rule to exclude certain restrictions, Nigeria has in various years, since 2008 remained on the list of defaulting countries of the CSPA.

“During the reporting period, credible observers reported for the first time that some elements of the Nigerian security forces (NSF) used children as young as 12 years old in support roles, and NSF continued to detain and arrest children for alleged association with Boko Haram, some of whom may have been forcibly recruited,” the report said about Nigeria, listed among the tier 2 countries with ‘minimal’ approach towards eliminating trafficking in persons related crimes. “The Nigerian military also conducted on the ground coordination with the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), non-governmental self-defense militias that continued to recruit and use children possibly unwillingly and mostly in support roles and at least one of which received state government funding. Government officials including military, police, and federal and state officials–were involved in widespread sexual exploitation of Borno State women and girls displaced by Boko Haram, at times forcing women and girls in IDP camps to provide commercial sex acts in exchange for food. “Furthermore, despite identifying a large number of labor trafficking victims, the government only convicted two labor traffickers and it decreased funding for the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP), including its budget for victim services. Therefore, Nigeria was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List,” the report stated.

Countries also listed to have violated the act, according to the report include: Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.According to the report, the countries were picked based on details obtained within the period of compilation; between April1, 2016 and March 30, 2017. “The determination to include a government in the CSPA list is informed by a range of sources, including first-hand observation by U.S. government personnel and research and credible reporting from various UN entities, international organizations, local and international NGOs, and international media outlets,” the report stated.

Evelyn Okakwu