Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
As the world celebrates the Day of the African Child 2020, it is estimated that Nigeria is facing a child rights crisis with more than 36,000 children being identified as victims of violence, including 5,693 survivors of sexual violence.
This was disclosed by UNICEF Nigeria in a statement signed by Communication Specialist, Geoffrey Njoku, and made available to journalists yesterday in Bauchi.
The statement said the victims were identified and documented in seven states of Nigeria since 2017, stressing that “very few of those cases made it to the courtrooms, let alone resulted in justice for child-victims.”
It further said the number of children awaiting trial for what are often petty crimes is estimated to be more than 1,000, with children often held in detention with adults and in conditions that no child should live in.
While lamenting the plight of the children in such situations, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said: “Access to a child-friendly justice system is essential for protecting children’s rights and addressing violence against children. Without access to a child-friendly justice system, children’s rights will remain elusive, and as a society, we cannot serve the best interests of children especially in the face of violations of their rights.”
According to the statement, as part of activities marking the week, experts in various fields will discuss these and other issues relating to the need to develop a child-friendly justice system in Nigeria.
It is expected that no fewer than 800 participants and panelists will deliberate and develop strategies to address the challenge of ensuring that children can access a justice system that considers their special needs and their rights.
On 16 June every year, the African Union and its partners celebrate the Day of the African Child (DAC) in commemoration of the 1976 protests by school children in Soweto, South Africa. The students protested an education designed to further the purposes of the apartheid regime. The brutal response of the apartheid security agencies to the unarmed students’ protests resulted in the death of several of them.
The 1976 protests contributed greatly to the eventual collapse of the apartheid regime. In 1991, the African Union Assembly (then Organisation of African Unity) passed a resolution designating 16 June as a Day for the celebration of the African child.
This year’s event is tagged: ‘Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa’.