By Funmi Ajumobi

Marking the second anniversary of the abduction of 219 female students from the Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State by Boko Haram without any clue, where they are and when they will be reunited with their parents should be the concern of every citizen and government .

A saying in the western part of Nigeria goes thus, “It is better to hear that the child is dead than to hear that the child is missing or lost”. This means that when a child is dead, parents can grieve and then surrender to fate knowing that there is nothing they can do to bring the child back. But when a child is missing, it is every day sorrow that put parents in a position of endless hope, ill-health or even death.

For the two years since the abduction, civil society organisastions (CSOs) did not relent in their struggle to have the girls freed despite the claim in some quarters that it was to score a political point. If not for the CSOs, especially the Bring Back Our Girls group that steadfastly rallied in Abuja, the abduction may not have remained on the front burner. They brought together people from all walks of life and dedicated their lives to calling on the military to live up to its responsibility and making the world aware that we can’t keep going when the over 200 girls remain in captivity.

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The Child Rights Act makes copious provisions on abduction of children. Section 27 of the Act states: “(1) No person shall remove or take a child out of the custody or protection of his father or mother, guardian or such other person having lawful care or charge of the child against the will of the father, mother, guardian or other person. (2) A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (1) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction (a) where the child is unlawfully removed or taken out of Federal Republic of Nigeria (i) with intention to return the child to Nigeria, to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years; or (ii) with no intention to return the child to Nigeria, to imprisonment for a term of twenty years; b) where the child is unlawfully removed or taken out of the State in which the father, mother, guardian or such other person who has lawful care of the child is ordinarily resident, to imprisonment for a term of ten years; or (c) in any case, to imprisonment for a term of seven years.” It is a grave mistake to continue to keep these children, thus violating their rights.

The government, though making efforts to rescue the children from Boko Haram, according to reports, should realise that violence against children goes beyond its negative impact on them and their families. The government should also know that violence weakens the very foundation of social progress, generates huge costs for society, slows economic development and erodes human and social capital. According to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, “Globally, an estimated US$7 trillion is lost each year due to violence in childhood, equivalent to 8 percent of global GDP. In Sub-Sahara Africa, violence against children is estimated to cost US$440 billion each year,”

President Muhammadu Buhari should always remember his commitment to Nigeria at the launch of the Year of Action to End Violence Against Children that his administration ought to enforce all laws that will protect children from violence and to ensure that the rights of children are protected in the country. He should also note the statement of Amina Yusuf who represented Nigeria at the United Nations General Assembly, last September, “I believe Chibok girls will soon return because change has come”.

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