Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Nigeria’s tortuous child rights journey

The Nigerian child daily bears a burden occasioned with mirage of issues from rape, violence ranging from; domestic, sexual, physical, emotional amongst others.

Children today 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 their full potential.

Thousands of teen girls especially from less privileged families serve as housemaids or slave labourers in middle class families in the urban areas, where they are sexually subjugated which sometimes end up fatal as their right are being threatened and unfulfilled daily.

Since the Child Right Convention held 30 years ago, unfortunately, only 24 out of the 36 states in Nigeria have domesticated the Child Right Act, CRA, which is geared to ensure that every child is protected.

Citing the case of the 13 year old late Ochanya Ogbanje, a student of Federal Government Girls College, Gboko, Benue state who met her untimely death after being diagnosed with Vesico-vaginal fistula, VVF as a result of the series of sexual assault from her guardian, Mr Andrew Ogbuja and his son, Victor Ogbuja.

The Ogbuja's case though still in court is a wakeup call to governors whose states are still toying with the Act to domesticate it as the fate that befell Ochanya was one of the reasons the Child Rights Act was enacted.

Laudably, a recent judgement by an Ikeja High Court on Mr Adegboyega Adeneken charged on a count of defiling a two year and 11 month old pupil of Chrisland School, Victoria Garden City, VGC, Lagos state.

Adenekan, aged 47, a supervisor was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years imprisonment for defiling the pupil.

Despite this laudable progress on the court rule, all over Nigeria and virtually from every nook and corner comes constant flow of graphic stories of violent sexual attacks of children as young as one year old by depraved male adults who sometimes end up going free from the laws made against such brutal violation of the sexuality rights of these

But hopefully the police and law enforcement agencies are bringing such cases of violence against children to book.

In Nigeria daily, stories abound of children of school age who aren't enrolled in schools because of poverty but are left to roam about in the streets either hawking or begging for alms.

States where child begging are mostly common are hiding under religious sentiments to kick against provisions of the Child Rights Act which are simply adopted from a global Child Rights Laws of the United Nations. Sadly, the Child Rights Act, is yet to be adopted and domesticated by 12 states of the federation.

While the Governors of these 12 states send their children and family members to the most advanced western societies in Western Europe, America and Canada where the rights of children are sacrosanct but back home Nigeria, they argue against the domestication of the Child Rights Act that would benefit the children of millions of the rural and urban poor.

Speaking in an interview with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, Child Right Specialist, Sharon Oladiji called on states yet to domesticate the Act, to please do so while she applauded the Child Right Act as it is a comprehensive law which cut across all areas including: police, justice, welfare amongst others.

Oladiji said, “it is not all failure or negativity in the system. The International Labour Organization, ILO, and the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, NAPTIP, has done a whole lot to help the child in the area of Child Right Act and these involves every area of the child to prevent abuse. In the Act, there is the area of health, education, participation and in all these areas, there are institutions, agencies that are to do with it."

In the area of child abuse, Oladiji said the first step to take is to remove such child from that particular environment.

According to her, NAPTIP has built shelters for abused children as such children are taken from the environment in order to help them combat trauma, stigma, adding that when the child is certified okay, he/she is being returned to the parents.

The UNICEF Child Right Specialist said, "we need to think of community action against abusers and we can use our pragmatic community leaders to do this by calling for town hall meetings as all these abusers live in a community. If such is noticed in a community, there must be someone who is right thinking in that community one can report to.

"An individual can anchor the town hall meeting and get the people involved because they might not know about such abuse or what to look out for in an abusive person. We can deal with a lot of these issues but it calls for hard work."

On childhood experiences affecting adulthood, Oladiji pointed that there is need to focus on children in our clime as what one experience as a child can either make or mar his future.

She stated that, "if you look at the Nigerian Society, it is built on violence. It is inter-generational transference of violence. This generation must do something to change this.

"In our generation, we can come out and team up to stop these abuses on our children. We carry a lot of things from our childhood but we don't need to train our children like that. If you have a very good childhood, it helps you but if you have very a bad childhood, it affects you. It is very real with us."

She however called on the media to speak to the conscience of the people, women and widows alike to wake up and speak up against violence in order to stop the trend in this generation.







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