By By Suzan Edeh
Child abuse is a social phenomenon that has attracted so much attention all over the world. It is referred to the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of a child.
With the condition of children in the country, particularly those that are exposed to all forms of degradation and molestation, more drastic measures ought to be put in place to address issues connected to the violation of the rights of children. What is even more sympathetic is a case whereby a child is beaten, cut with a knife or razor, burnt and poured with acid because there is a belief that the child is possessed with a spirit of witchcraft.
Sadly enough, most of the victims accused of witchcraft are innocent and have nobody to fight for their cause. Investigations revealed that many African countries in the world are guilty of this nefarious act as tradition, culture and religion are the strongest reasons people still cling to it, a combination of high levels of poverty, environmental degradation and corruption mean that many children do not enjoy their basic rights
In 1988, the Nigerian chapter of the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect,ANPP-CAN, organized three conferences with the ministry of Justice, Health and Social Welfare in conjunction with UNICEF to produce a new draft law on protecting children in Nigeria. This draft stimulated the government to develop the current Child Rights Act 2003.
Since the creation of the law, it appears to have different levels of acceptance and implementation among Nigerian states. Even though the Act is legally binding, there is no provision of national force that truly protects children against abuse. Child protection activities are still the efforts of NGOs and implementation has been made very challenging.
A report by ANPP-CAN revealed that out of the 36 states in the country, only 26 have implemented the Child Rights Act. It states that in many states, members of child rights implementation committee lack the mobilization and capacity to effectively advocate and facilitate the contents of this law. While the advocacy for the passage of the Child Rights Act in the various states that are yet to pass the law is ongoing, government should lay emphasis on the need to accelerate implementation of this law not just at the national and state levels but also at the local government level which forms the grassroots of the government system in Nigeria.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has declared that if all states in the country would implement the Child Rights Act, violence often inflicted on children which include rape, kidnapping, battery and exploitation twill be reduced to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated.
At a media parley workshop on Child Justice Administration, organised by the UNICEF D-Field Office Bauchi in collaboration with journalists from the electronic and print media in the 10 states that make up the D-Field Office of UNICEF as well as representatives of the Child Protection Network, (CPN) which took place in Kano State, participants emphasized on the need for states that are yet to pass the Child Rights Act to take a cue from states that have domesticated the law. Participants were also of the view that the media should embark on aggressive advocacy to persuade states lagging behind to pass the law while those who have passed it should put in place relevant structures such as family courts for smooth implementation.
Communications Officer of the UNICEF Bauchi Office, Samuel Kaalu who spoke on the UNICEF’s role in promoting child protection, urged media practitioners to champion the crusade for the implementation of the Child Rights Law in Nigeria.
According to him, “the media should see themselves as stakeholders as far as child protection issues are concerned and that is why UNICEF is partnering with the media because people believe strongly in them as their major source of information. Through advocating through frequent reportage on child protection issues such as the implementation of the Child Rights Law by states that have not done so, stakeholders, lawmakers and state governments in the country would become enlightened and see the need why such a law should be implemented in all states of the federation”.
While stressing on the need for state government to hasten implementation on the Child Rights Law, an officer of the Child Protection Network (CPN) in Gombe State, Mrs.Lucy Usen, revealed that the fight against child abuse and molestation is on the increase in states of northern Nigeria. She noted that CPN is a non-governmental organization that has the mandate of protection of the rights of Children.
According to Usen, 200 registered cases of child abuse had been registered by concerned stakeholders and they include, illegal engagement of underaged children in carnal acts by older men, child abandonment, hawking, stigmatization for witchcraft, illegal detention and other forms of depravation. She said that a recent study report onf Bauchi, Gombe, Yola, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa and Kano States revealed a disturbing child rights violation, but lamented that more cases of rape were not reported due to fears of stigmatization or ignorance.
She said, “CPN has recorded over 50 cases of child rape across the states, but more cases have not been reported. Bauchi State recorded 11 cases with a particular case of one police officer raping nine under-aged girls and a lecturer of one the tertiary institutions raping a teenager. In Plateau State where an adult and minor male rapist gang raped a 14-year old girl, about 8 more cases are at various levels of litigation. In Kano State, CPN recorded 22 cases of children rape while Nasarawa established 4 cases of child rape”.
While commending states that have passed the Child Rights Law, she urged participants, particularly the media, to enlighten their various states on the existence of CPN.