The unintended cost of child abuse is high on the country

The arrest last week of Mr. Francis Taiwo, a Celestial Church of Christ pastor who starved and kept his nine-year-old son, Korede, in chains for months, in an attempt to “cast out the evil spirit” testifies to the fact of poor parenting and dysfunctional families in our country. But while the law must take its course on the abusive parents who nearly murdered Korede by their action, questions must be asked as to what happens to other Koredes since child abuse is a common phenomenon in Nigeria.

“It is true that I stole a pot of soup and a bowl of eba in our house,” said Korede. “My father’s inability to give money to my stepmother for the upkeep of the family caused it. When I was chained, my father and stepmother fed me twice a day. Some days, I was not given any food. I want to go back to school because I want to be a doctor in future. I do not want to go back to my father’s house.” But the father, in his police statement wrote: “I chained Korede because he is possessed. An evil spirit makes him to steal. He needs deliverance.”

The irresponsible father could not understand that there is no “evil spirit” greater than hunger for a child but he is not alone in this kind of delusion. That is why we must look beyond this particular case to recognise the challenge that we face. Nigeria has ratified the United Nations child’s rights convention and enacted the Child Rights Act. But 16 states have not adopted the act while child abuse is rampart even in states that have adopted the law and criminalise child rights abuse. To compound the crisis the authorities have failed to censor films that project children who are physically challenged as witches and wizards in a society that glorifies the supernatural.

Child marriage, child trafficking, child labour, genital mutilation and rape of underage boys and girls are on the increase in many parts of the country. That perhaps also explains why we have no fewer than 15 million children of the poor roaming the streets, the highest figure in the world!

Indeed, that Nigerian children are becoming endangered in the hands of those who should protect them was yet again reinforced with the recent rape of a seven-year old girl who was reportedly chased out by her parents for losing the recharge card they sent her to buy. The case is now before an Apapa Magistrate Court, Lagos, where the culprit has been charged with “unlawfully defiling a seven-year old girl, thereby committing an offence under Section 138 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.”

Besides, the social disharmony in many Nigerian homes has become a veritable threat to the survival of the family institution in Nigeria. Ostensibly bowing to pressure of work and social activities, many of the working parents in big Nigerian cities have practically outsourced their parental responsibilities and by so doing abandon the training of their children and wards to their housemaids. The damaging effects of this gross neglect have unsurprisingly been colossal. Without proper parental love and upbringing, many of these abandoned children end up as societal delinquents and never-do-wells.

It is a notorious fact that many street children in Nigeria today come from families uprooted in rural areas and implanted in urban cities with the prospect, or mirage, of a better life. That perhaps explains why many Nigerian children are increasingly becoming victims of child trafficking, child labour, child prostitution and modern child slavery. Worst still, several cases of cruelties against children are being uncovered in many Nigerian families. The authorities must find a way to deal with this growing challenge.