Child Rights Convention: 3 decades after, where is Nigeria?
Ultimately, every child deserves the rights to life, education health, protection as well as safety to function optimally in any given society.
Ending abuse of children is key to achieving the wellbeing of the Nigerian child, hence the need to increase the number of States domesticating and implementing the Child Rights Act, CRA, in Nigeria.
To realize the rights for children, Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC, in 1991, two years after.
Though the CRC was inaugurated by world leaders in 1989 with the aim to protecting children everywhere in the world.
Globally, the circumstances around the welfare of children have changed but the provisions of the Act remains the same as it took into account the different cultural, social, economic and political realities of individual nations.
According to the United Nation’s, "the law to protect children must be implemented across board despite these varying situations."
Globally, Africa has the highest number of dependent children, three out of 10 of these children live in fragile and conflict affected areas the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says.
After 30 years of CRC there is failure in meeting the developmental needs of the Nigerian child especially in 12 States of the Federation amounting to victimization of several forms of violence as a result of non-implementation of the Child Right Act.
The 12 states yet to domesticate the CRA after 28 years Nigeria's adopted the Act, only 24 States have signed the Act into law while 12 others including Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Kaduna, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Yobe, Borno, Adawama, Kebbi and Gombe are yet to ratify the Act.
Eight out of 19 northern states that ratified the Act are; Niger, FCT, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Kwara and Kogi while Jigawa State which originally signed the Act into law later repealed it. But all the 17 states in the south have fully domesticated the Act.
What this portend for states yet to domesticate the Act is that a huge number of children will continue to work as caregivers in non-family homes while others engage in multiple forms of labour to support their parents.
However, it is not far-fetched as this could also be linked to the high number of Nigeria's 10.5 million out of school children even though primary education is officially free and compulsory UNICEF says.
Also, UNICEF estimates that about 40 percent of girls in Nigeria are married at 15 years or younger while about 44 percent are married before they are 18.
However, as at 2009, there were an estimated 17.5 million orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria.
Most of these children without guidance or protection now form the larger percentage of those trafficked, molested or abused.
A UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Mrs Sharon Oladiji, said the bill is still existing in papers in many of the States mainly from the North who are yet to domesticate the law.
Revealing this to journalists in Lagos at a two- day media dialogue on #CRCAt30nigeria organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau, CRIB, of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with UNICEF, Oladiji said that poverty, community disintegration, family dysfunction, and child vulnerability are drawbacks to the actualisation of the Child Rights Laws in the country.
She said, "realizing the rights of children and ensuring their protection must include an end to exploitation of children, elimination of violence against children, putting an end to child marriage, ending trafficking of children and totally eliminating child labour."
Oladiji further said that investing in a child is paramount for Nigeria and Africa as a whole to realize the right of the burgeoning child population, adding that a healthy development of a child is crucial to the future wellbeing of any nation.
According to her, "special attention is required for Nigeria which is the country with the largest increase in absolute numbers of both birth and child population, it is time we acknowledge our shared responsibility and address this issue."
Speaking on violence against children, Mr Denis Onoise, UNICEF Child Rights Specialist, Lagos, said six out of every 10 children have experienced multiple violence in Lagos State before they attain the age of 15.
He added that in Akwa Ibom State and some parts of the South East, children are being accused of witchcraft, with such children facing multiple abuse, violence and stigmatization.
Onoise further pointed out the Almajiri's in northern Nigeria ages between seven and 15 are sent to live on their own without care and protection.
Olumide Osanyipeju, Director, Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information in his remarks, said that the UN Convention on the rights of the child is a comprehensive statement which would be binding under international law and became necessary with reports of grave injustice suffered by children.
He said the prejudice ranged from high infant mortality, deficient health care, limited opportunities for basic education, alarming accounts of children being abused and exploited as prostitutes or in harmful jobs, children in prison or in other difficult circumstances.
Osanyipeju added that it is equally worthy to note that it has really been an uphill task bringing to fruition the total realisation of children’s rights in our society, especially in the rural terrains which constitute the bulk of our society and where a vast majority of our people are not literate.
Looking at the situation that stares us in the face, he said it was a tall order to bring people to understand that children deserve as many fundamental rights as the adults as well as the need to protect the rights of our children at risk of deprivations of basic social benefits, in exploitative, difficult circumstances and mortality.
Mrs. Blessing Ejiofor, UNICEF Communication Officer, stated the objectives of the workshop which include; taking advantage of CRC@30 anniversary to renew alliances and inspire broader movements for children across the media in Nigeria, introduce the global CRC@30campaign and highlight UNICEF Nigeria’s engagement plans.
Ejiofor added that the media should support the campaign and provide a platform to review media advocacy on children’s rights in Nigeria vis-a-vis the CRC, identify and plan new ways to push for increased financial and non-financial investments in children with a focus on emerging trends and threats to childhood in this millennium.
Eliana Drakopoulos, UNICEF Chief of Communication, said media has a role to play in this global campaign adding, CRC was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations by its resolution of November 20, 1989 and has the same meaning for people in all parts of the world.
Drakopoulos added, "we want to know where we are now 30 years after the CRC. What is the stage of children’s rights? Have all the States implemented the rights of the children? Children need to know their rights and even parents should know as well."