Appraising the Lagos Children’s Protection System

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Kehinde Akinfenwa draws attention to the efforts of the Lagos State

Government to ensure the welfare of children through the right strategies and policies

The overall strategy must spell out a paradigm shift in the way government and civil societies approach the right to protection of children. By having sustainable safeguarding policies and procedure towards preventing more and more children falling out of safety nets, the society will breathe a sigh of relieve.

The phenomenon of child abuse has become one of the most widely discussed social tragedies of our time. While it is a perturbing reality that children in every country, culture and society face various forms of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence, they are oftentimes abandoned to their fate, constantly yearning for the warmth of parental care and societal sympathy.

In an increasingly chaotic world, children living in communities impacted by conflict, natural disasters and global pandemics are often at increased risk of this societal debility, having their ability to thrive as an adult member of society impaired. And the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan expressed it this way; “millions of children continue to endure the dreadful indignities of poverty; hundreds of thousands suffer the effects of conflict and economic chaos; tens of thousands are maimed in wars; many are orphaned or killed by HIV/AIDS.

Despite this uncertainty that is beclouding the future, a few individuals and organisations are continuously striving to address this social malady. Agencies of United Nations such as United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and many others are making decisive efforts to stem the tide. Likewise, in Nigeria, prominent individuals and organization are trying to change the narrative.

Referencing the global strategy for child protection programming 2015-2020, government holds a central pillar among the four groups of actors that are fundamental for systems approach in this daunting mission of guarding the right and privileges of children, others are communities, families and the children themselves. Government has the primary responsibility for appropriate legislation and the delivery of a wide range of services to ensure children are protected.

Correspondingly, the Lagos State Government through its developmental programmes and policies for youth and children is immensely contributing to the national and international efforts to fulfill children’s rights to protection from abuse, violence and exploitation.  More importantly, however, the promulgation of the Child Rights Law (2015) as amended was very significant in the affairs of child administration in the State.

An integral provision of the Child Right Law of Lagos State is the establishment of reformatory and training centre for children, now referred to as correctional center. The creation of this structure is sorely to re-socialize, correct and improve the wellbeing of children who have been victims of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence in the society.

Lagos Correctional Centers

Since the issue of a corrective home for delinquent children was conceived during the colonial era and actualized in Lagos with the establishment of the Remand Home in 1942 on Lagos Island, several correctional centers have sprung up across the country within the last two decades with the purpose of reforming, rehabilitating and reintegrating delinquent juveniles.

In Lagos presently, the state government operates two categories of correctional centre; the Correctional Centre for Boys and Girls and the Special Correctional Centre for Boys and Girls. These centers which are located at strategic areas in the state have over the years become a haven for children in desperate need of appropriate shelter, food, medical attention, basic hygiene and other social services.

Remarkably, the correctional homes are structured to provide comprehensive services with schools and vocational centers where children go through normal academic session, vocational training, as well as social counseling. All these  institutions with committed and competent workforce offer child-friendly, non-discriminatory services as juveniles also have access to counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers who help them overcome psychological distress. Aside engaging in recreational activities to rebuild and enhance their skills and abilities, children also participate in other peculiar social activities.

Admission

Admission into the centre is through care order issued by the courts, mostly from the 11 Family Courts in Lagos State which is guaranteed under the Child Rights Law. Since only court can legalize the admittance of a child into the home, a delinquent child or one guilty of committing a grievous crime is referred to the Special Correctional Centre for adequate psychological therapy and protection while social investigation is conducted for an effective treatment plan.

Majority of the children in these homes particularly the correctional centers are however rescued from streets across Lagos by agencies of government after being abandoned or left destitute by their parents or supposed guardians. Officials at the centre carry out home tracing of the wards’ parents or families to inform them of their child’s presence in the correctional home and if the need to release any child to the parent or family member arises, the court will give its mandate with stringent conditions taking into consideration the safety and care of such child.

Additionally, as part of the reintegration process, children who have completed the Junior Secondary School education at the center are offered admission into Schools anywhere in the State to complete their secondary education; this offers them a sense of belongings and improves their self-esteem.

The nature of Lagos being a cosmopolitan city where people from all walks of life enjoy the same socio-economic opportunities is typified in these centres as children from different parts of the country and beyond who were rescued from the street as destitute occupies a sizable percentage in these homes. While the state government through the Ministry of Youth and Social Development facilitates permanent placement for children who cannot return home, children from neighboring countries like; Niger Republic, Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Cameroun and others are also present, receiving the same quality services.

A Robust Integration

Considering the sensitivity and complexity involved in the running of correctional centres, the state government through the Ministry of Youth and Social Development has developed a robust integration plan with both local and international development partners to improve the overall quality of the centers while helping the children to achieve their potential and contribute positively to national growth and development.

Thus, the fact remains that, through concerted effort and sincere gesture, every child can accomplish his or her vision. All they need is the support to develop in an environment where they feel secure and safe. It is significant that early prevention strategies, interventions and programme to ensure children’s welfare, health and well-being are guaranteed is critical.

The overall strategy must spell out a paradigm shift in the way government and civil societies approach the right to protection of children. By having sustainable safeguarding policies and procedure towards preventing more and more children falling out of safety nets, the society will breathe a sigh of relieve.

*Akinfenwa is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy

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