IMPLEMENT CHILD RIGHTS ACT NOW

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We call on state governors in Nigeria that have adopted the Child Rights Act in the 36 states to quickly begin to implement it to save Nigerian children from religious and cultural practices which expose them to torture and abuse.

According to reports, over 300 children in a religious institution in Kaduna were subjected to various human rights abuses. We find that across board, and across all Nigerian societies, children, male and female, come under certain religious and cultural practices which diminish their value and humanity, and which greatly undermine everything the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs) seek to change.

One child among five is out of school in Nigeria, a condition greatly worsened by the kidnapping of school girls in Chibok in 2014. Today, only 41% of girls in the North East of Nigeria ever go to school. Most are locked up in their homes, and before their 15th birthday are already betrothed to men as old as their fathers. Records indicate that Nigeria ranks third among countries still practicing female genital mutilation on women and girls ranging from 15-40, a practice common in southern Nigeria. The number of Nigerian children under the age of five is about 31million. If most do not die before they are born, they live without access to water, sanitation and hygiene, lack facilities like libraries in their schools and are exposed to malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea.

Conditions such as these once existed in 17th Century in Nigeria and Europe but were abrogated after strong individuals like Mary Slessor worked hard to stop the practice of killing twins in Calabar in Nigeria, and after European parliaments passed the relevant laws. Since 2003 after the passage of the Child Rights Act, only 23 out of the 36 states in Nigeria have recognized it. Even at that implementation is poor, as we have seen from the Kaduna children torture case. Children belong to the state and they deserve to be treated better than they are now. Religious and cultural practices must not continue to expose them to torture and human rights abuses.

Majirioghene Bob Etemiku, Civil Empowerment & Rule of Law Support Initiative, Abuja