The Child Rights Act should be enforced

That the incidence of domestic violence across the country has extended to children is frightening, just as the statistics of the prevalence are worrisome. While we urge the relevant authorities to pay attention to this malaise that threatens the future of our children, it is also important for parents to be more alive to their responsibilities. Last Friday, the Nigeria Police Force arrested a man in Edo State who posted obscene photos and videos of his four-year-old daughter on his Instagram page in what is becoming a fad among some irresponsible parents who crave clout on social media. In a similar viral video three years ago, a man was seen kissing his three-year-old stepsister and when arrested, he claimed he had “no bad intentions.”

In a survey once reported by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), six out of every 10 Nigerian children suffer some forms of physical, emotional or sexual violence before attaining the age of 18. The survey, carried out by the National Population Commission (NPC) with support from UNICEF and the United States’ Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that violence against children had become so widespread that one in two Nigerian children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence; and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence. Unfortunately, the majority of these children don’t speak to anyone about the violence they suffer and fewer than five per cent receive the help they need to recover from their trauma.

Last December, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) rescued three babies who were rented out for N3,000 by their mothers to traffickers to beg for alms.“The suspected traffickingsyndicate specialise in collecting babies with the connivance of other members of the gang, hire out these innocent children and position them at the roadsides at busy intersections and bus stops, where they use them for alms begging,” said NAPTIP. “These infants are exposed to harsh weather conditions on a daily basis in a dusty and dirty environment even in the face of vehicular movement and other forms of abuse without proper feeding.”

We therefore urge the government, at all levels, to begin to respond to this crushing incidence of child exploitation in Nigeria. To start with, highlighting the true magnitude of the challenge is crucial to drumming up public support and breeding steady action towards its eradication. The strategies for addressing this problem should also include provision for counselling services and creating public awareness by involving all critical stakeholders in the campaign. This is because a major concern from the UNICEF study was the lack of counselling unit and professional counsellors to manage such cases. We believe that the consequences are enormous if the appropriate authorities refuse or fail to act urgently on this growing, fear-provoking, and crying incidence as we may unwittingly be breeding an angry, psychological traumatised, wayward and rebellious generation.   

The social disharmony in many Nigerian homes has become a veritable threat to the survival of the family institution. More worrisome is that the situation will likely worsen because of the prevailing economic crisis in the country. Child marriage, child trafficking, child labour and rape of underage boys and girls are on the increase in many parts of the country. 

The challenge of enforcing the Child Rights’ Act in many of the states is at the heart of what is necessary to tackle the menace. But the society must also rise to the challenge of all forms of abuse and violence against children in Nigeria.

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