Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Nigeria

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Nigeria, 2001, available at: [accessed 18 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 108,945,000
    – under-18s: 54,771,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 76,500
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 18
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: none indicated in government armed forces; unknown in armed opposition groups
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 8 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position.
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/API+II
  • There are no indications of under-18s in government armed forces. In 1999 and 2000 armed Ijaw youths thought to be age 16 and over took part in opposition to the government's oil policy in the Nigerian Delta. There is no information available regarding the participation of children in other ethnic militias.


In May 1999, the election of a civilian government marked the end of 16 years of military-led regimes. Shortly after the government adopted a new Constitution. Ongoing internal ethnic conflict as well as opposition to oil production in the Niger river delta continued, with up to 1,240 people dying from the various clashes in 1999, and an estimated 2,000 – mostly civilians – dying the following year in clashes between Muslims and Christians in Northern and South-eastern Nigeria.1366 In the Niger Delta some 4,000 Ijaws launched protests in December 1998, to which the government responded by sending in additional military troops and declaring a state of emergency.1367 Confrontations between what are described as 'militant youths' and government forces continued to take place in 1999 and 2000.1368 Nigeria contributes troops to ECOWAS peace monitoring missions in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.1369


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

Article 24 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria states that all citizens have a duty to "help to enhance the power, prestige and good name of Nigeria, defend Nigeria and render such national service as may be required". However there is currently no conscription in Nigeria. According to Decree No. 51 of the 1993 National Youth Service Corps Decree, enlistment into the armed forces is voluntary and the minimum age is 18. University graduates are required to perform 12-months of civilian service.1370

Child Recruitment

In 1995 the Nigerian government reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that "Children do not take part directly in hostilities, nor is anybody under 15 years of age recruited into the armed forces. In times of conflict, the protection of the child is paramount...".1371 There is no evidence of minors currently enlisted in the Nigerian armed forces.

Military Training and Military Schools

There are several military high schools in Nigeria: the Nigerian Airforce Secondary School, the Nigerian Airforce Military School; the Nigerian Air Force Girls Military School and the Nigerian Military School in Zaria.1372 Until 1957 the Nigerian Military School was known as the Boys Company, and students were called Boy Soldiers. These were boys between the ages of 11 and 16 trained to become professional soldiers. Due to the growth of the school, by 1957 it no longer fell under the army definition of a company and thus became the Nigerian Military School.1373 It now accepts boys between 11 and 18 years of age.1374 It is not known whether students at these schools are considered members of the armed forces.


Ethnic violence occurs primarily between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri and between the Yoruba and Hausa. Various militias associated with the different ethnic groups have operated over the years. Some of the most active currently include the anti-Hausa militia known as the Yoruba Odua People's Congress (OPC). Another anti-Housa militia is the Onitsha Vigilante Services, formerly known as the Bakassi Boys.1375 Militias in the Delta region include the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, created by Major Isaac Boro for the Ijaws. One Ijaw leader, Mr Bello Orubebe, claimed 20,000 persons had already undergone six months of training in military camps in the Delta region by February 1999.1376

The new Constitution of Nigeria prohibits local and state police forces. As a result of violence in the Delta region, many oil companies employed local police or military troops to protect their facilities and personnel. There are reports that these "militias" have engaged in killings and other human rights abuses, in some cases with the support of foreign oil companies.1377

Child Recruitment

It is not known how many children are among the Niger Delta Volunteer Force. However 'youth groups' are well known to have played a major role in the Delta region. In April 1997 youths were reported as the driving force in clashes in Warri.1378 In December 1998 many young Ijaws joined in the mass protest against government oil policy in the Nigerian delta. In August, bands of armed Ijaw youths captured a number of oil producing platforms and flow-stations, and took several oil workers hostage.1379

The US Department of State reported that confrontations between increasingly militant youths – described typically as unemployed males between the ages of 16 and 40 – oil companies and government authorities continued in 1999 and 2000. At least 28 Delta youths were killed in such clashes or suspected vandalization near oil flow stations in 2000.1380


International Standards

Nigeria signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 8 September 2000 and supports a "straight-18" position.

1366 Project Ploughshares, Armed Conflict Report 2000: Nigeria.

1367 US State Department Human Rights Report 1999.

1368 US State Department Report 2001.

1369 UN IRIN, "ECOMOG capable of defending border, ECOWAS head says", 24/1/01.

1370 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.

1371 CRC/C/8/Add.26; 21/8/95, para. 93.

1372 Nigerian High Schools:

1373 The Nigerian Military School in Zaria:

1374 Confidential sources reported in 1999 that children of 9 or 10 years of age are enrolled.

1375 HRW Report 2001.

1376 "Melange explosif dans le Delta", Le Monde Diplomatique, 2/99.

1377 US State Department Report 1999.

1378 Nigerian opposition radio, 30/4/97cited in RB Newsletter Children of War, No. 2/97.

1379 US State Department Report 1999.

1380 US State Department Report 2000.

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