Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Despite Efforts, most Nigerian children still disadvantaged

Nigerian Children's Day 2019 falls during the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child CRC), which is being commemorated this year globally.

The CRC was the brainchild of world leaders in efforts to ensure the protection of children and a better future for the world.

Despite efforts by stakeholders, the Nigerian child faces neglect, abandonment and are still disadvantaged in accessing the basics of life due them.

Most Nigerian children lack access to health, nutrition, education, safe environment which is essential to achieving his full potential.

Launching the CRC in child-friendly language, in pocket format, "Passport to Your Rights" UNICEF's new Country Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins said, it is targeted at ensuring that every child in Nigeria has a copy by 2030 which is the deadline for achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

The CRC ‘passport’ will also be available in Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Pidgin languages, helping to ensure access by millions of Nigerians.

According to Hawkins, "it is for the most disadvantaged children who are suffering the greatest challenge in having their rights fulfilled."

The UNICEF Nigeria boss said "childhood is a period separate from adulthood, a time in which children should grow, learn, play, develop and flourish."

He says it is the hope of UNICEF that every Nigerian child has that kind of a childhood.

According to him, "the Child Rights Convention went on to become the most widely-ratified human rights treaty in history, with Nigeria ratifying it in 1991.

"It has helped to transform children’s lives; inspiring legislative changes to protect children and enabling them to participate actively in their societies.

"Today, more children than ever live healthy lives; are learning in school and have a voice in their communities. But much more needs to be done as children’s rights continue to be unfulfilled and threatened daily around the world and in Nigeria.

"There are still too many children being left behind, and too many childhoods cut short by violence, conflict, poverty and inequality," He said.

Hawkins say it is important to look ahead to the future of childhood in Nigeria, and re-commit to urgent, specific actions to protect the rights of every child, now, and in future generations.

He said "child rights will only be fully realized when every government and every citizen is aware of and upholds children’s rights, and every child can claim those rights. It is for this reason that we are launching a campaign ‘For every child, every right’ and will work closely with the government to ensure that all Nigerians are aware of the rights that all children have. This includes in particular children themselves.” said Peter Hawkins.

United Nations Children’s Fund and the Federal Government have tasked State governments to decisively formulate polices on the Child Rights Act to ensure swift implementation.

Speaking on the lack of access to basic developmental, survival, protection and participatory needs of a child, the Deputy Director, Head of Child Rights Information Bureau, CRIB, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr. Olumide Osanyinpeju said such act equals infringement on the rights of that child.

Oanyinpeju explained that a comprehensive declaration on children’s rights in Nigeria became necessary following reports of grave injustice meted out to children of all ages.

Making this statement at a media dialogue on CRC in Lagos, he said "high infant mortality, deficient health care, limited opportunities for basic education, alarming accounts of abused children and those exploited as prostitutes or in harmful jobs and even children in prison all constitute these injustices."

According to him, globally, there is evidence that investing in children ensures national development, as the future of any nation lies in the hands of its future generation.

But he explained that realizing children’s rights in Nigeria, especially in rural terrains which constitute the bulk of the society has become an uphill task.

He said this is why government is eager to collaborate with the media to drive the campaign to enlighten the society on the utmost importance of the Child Rights Act and how it uplifts Nigerian children, with specific reference to the duty of all, the government, civil society organizations, communities, and others in upholding the Convention.

With only about 24 states implementing the Child Rights Act in Nigeria currently, Osanyinpeju says the implementation by States yet to adopt and domesticate the law, will enhance the rights and well-being of the Nigerian child.

For Mrs Sharon Oladiji, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist ratifying the convention on the rights of the child implies that Nigeria is obligated to implement the provisions of the law in its full ramifications.

She explains that because children evolve, they need to be protected and guided to become intelligent and productive adults, they have to be safe to achieve their full potentials.

"If there are provisions to assist a country on how to protect and treat the children, then we need to revisit those provisions, which includes survival rights, right to health care, education, protection from abuse and harm.

"But because of our social cultural background, some people do not believe that children have rights, those who are opposing this law do not even understand the content of the law."

She says adhering to the law and raising the children well will be beneficial to the country in the future, as the action or inaction of government and that of duty bearers to the children will either make or mar the society in future.

 

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12 November 2019