- Saraki calls for release of Leah Sharibu, Chibok girls
Deji Elumoye, Omololu
Ogunmade in Abuja and Abimbola Akosile in Lagos
As the world marks Children’s Day today, President Muhammadu Buhari last night in Abuja tasked the security operatives, families, civil society organisations, traditional rulers, and religious bodies to rise up against increasing violence against children. The president’s charge was preceded by a call by Senate President Bukola Saraki, who took the opportunity of the day’s celebrations to renew the widespread calls for the immediate release of the lone Dapchi schoolgirl, Leah Sharibu, and the remaining Chibok girls still being held in captivity by Boko Haram insurgents.
In his Children’s Day speech made available to journalists late last night, Buhari said the increasing spate of violence against children was unacceptable and that decisive steps must be taken to ensure the protection of children in homes, schools, markets and worship centres.
According to him, the federal government, in its own effort to protect children from abuse and exploitation, has directed the management of all federal government schools to put in place adequate measures that will guarantee the security of their students. He also said various states of the federation and management of all public and private schools should put the machinery in place for the protection of students.
Buhari advised parents to ensure that they send their children, especially the girl child, to school, observing that girl child education stems the tide of maternal mortality and child marriage. He further tasked security agents to increase their efforts towards the protection of children.
“In our efforts to protect our children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking as well as provide safe, non-violent inclusive and effective learning environment in our schools, this administration has directed the management of all Federal Government Colleges and advised all state owned schools across the country to provide adequate measures of safety and security for their students,” he said.
In his own goodwill message in Abuja, Saraki called for the release of all school girls under the captivity of the insurgents. He said, “We make an unequivocal call for the release of all Nigerian children in captivity. We remember Leah Sharibu and the other Dapchi girls as well as those Chibok girls still in captivity, on this symbolic day. We affirm their right to freedom, to live carefree with their loved ones, to go to school, and for their dreams to remain intact.”
The senate president’s call coincided with the United Nations Children’s Fund’s pledge to partner with the federal government to end violence against children in Nigeria.
Saraki urged all relevant authorities not to relent in the efforts to see that Sharibu and all who are held captive are returned safe and unharmed.
“We must intensify efforts for the release of our children, even as we felicitate with the families of all who have been released,” the senate president said.
Saraki also emphasised that the safety of Nigerian children was non- negotiable, noting that the Children’s Day gives the country an opportunity to celebrate the young ones and to fully consider the important place they occupy in the heart of the nation. He insisted that no Nigerian child should go to bed hungry, just as due attention must be paid to their health as part of the vision to make the country stronger.
According to him, “This is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the cause of children. It is a day to recommit ourselves to doing all in our power to ensure that children are protected and empowered to aspire to be great in life, and to remove all impediments in their way.”
UNICEF, FG Pledge to End Violence
Meanwhile, UNICEF has pledged its commitment to end violence against children in Nigeria. UNICEF Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Isiye Ndombi, gave the assurance in an interview in Abuja yesterday.
Ndombi decried violence against children in the country and promised that the organisation was determined to mobilise the will and resources to tackle all forms of violence against children wherever it occurred. He described violence against children as pervasive, adding that it occurs in the home, school, work place and “online.”
According to him, perpetrators often include the very people children are expected to trust – parents, caregivers and other family members, friends, teachers, and intimate partners. He said, “We are currently re-analysing the 2014 Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) findings to gain an even deeper understanding of the drivers of violence against children.
“We are also supporting our government partners to launch our National Plan of Action to End VAC by 2030, alongside a national Social Norms Change Strategy. We are supporting the government to track and monitor reported cases to end the menace.”
Ndombi noted that violence against children affected them for life, saying that the marks are sometimes visible bruises and broken bones.