The need for aggressive implementation of international treaties on child protection in Nigeria and the way forward
By Moshood Olajide
With over 9 million out of school children roaming the streets in Nigeria, it is imperative to dissect the nexus between Child abuse, inaccessibility to education by poorest of the poor group in the society and how it eventually leads to Child Marriage.
According to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], Nigeria is among the top ten countries with the highest prevalent level of Child Marriage in the world. Further Indictment on the country’s image was the 2018 Save the Children Annual Index Report for 175 countries where Nigeria was ranked on Number 169 and neighboring Niger Republic been the least ranked on 175 and described as a hellish place for children to survive. The index compares countries by a set of indicators representing life-changing events that signal the disruption of childhood: poor health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy and extreme violence.
The report additionally stated that: The best country for children is Norway, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and South Korea while the 10 bottom-ranked countries are from Africa – eight from West and Central Africa namely – DR Congo, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, Somalia, South-Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic, Mali & Niger. Children in these countries, the report said are the least likely to fully experience childhood, a time that should be dedicated to emotional, social and physical development, as well as play. In these and many other countries around the world, children are robbed of significant portions of their childhoods.
The situation is worrisome in all honesty. With Nigeria as a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which is a legal instrument that contains clear principles on the rights of children to be protected and to be provided with services. Article 19 of the UNCRC act is of particular importance, explicitly stating that children be protected from ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. In this way the protection of children becomes a legal imperative enshrined in international treaty of which the implementation has been negligible with reports of child molestation, rape, and child trafficking renting the air in Nigeria with little conviction rate of offenders achieved.
In tackling all these challenges, issues of negligent parenting which is directly linked to abandoned children should be looked into which is what ultimately lead to child marriage before magnifying to child trafficking, and rape. Also, it is important for authorities to note that geometric increase in population without exponential growth in establishing a base for citizens in the middle income class category is an impediment to the growth of the country as this directly affects couples in making investment in the education of their wards and leads to teenage dropping out of school in some occasion and therefore becomes easy tools in the hand of men of the underworld. Expansive economy with easier access to credit by small and medium scale operators should be targeted in confronting this.
It is also necessary for the federal government to have the political will to extend the minimum age to procreate to 23 years with punitive measures put in place for violators, aggressive family planning campaign by the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and the establishment of a Child support ministry by state governments for the purpose of enhancing educational prospects, with those children failing to avail of such opportunities targeted for extra investment using a responsive emergency system, and identifying those populations most at risk and providing preventative services to them in order that such emergency responses will not be required.
Moshood Olajide is the Principal Head of MIPAG Policy Think-Tank Group