More startling about Nigerian children is the fact that many of them are out of school. They suffer various forms of indignation and inhuman treatments. They battle for survival in an environment similar to the one described in the classic work, The Animal Kingdom."
These were the words of Hajiya Asabe Shehu Yar'Adua, Founder/President, Asabe Shehu Yar 'Adua Foundation on the challenges of street children and child labour at a symposium organised by the Foundation in Lagos, penultimate weekend.
Hajiya Yar'Ádua said: "The consequence is the incredible growing number of street children in Nigerian cities fighting for meals, survival and space to lay their heads. You find these children roaming the streets, begging, suffering battery, being subjected to child labour like street hawking, rape and other forms of sexual abuse/prostitution, as well as sleeping in make-shift structures, abandoned vehicles and pavement.
Some of them absconded from homes because of maltreatment from their parents, especially stepmothers in fragmented or polygamous families". She added that "the street child is abused, misused and abandoned physically, mentally and psychologically. His future and that of the society is compromised by the privileged few in the Nigerian society. His miserable look in tattered clothes, unkempt hair and odorous mouth are indicative of our tomorrow as a people".
She also noted thus: "These children are products of broken marriages. Some were abandoned babies. Others were orphans. While a huge number of the children became street children because of economic vagaries, ravaging poverty and ignorance in a developing country like Nigeria.
And a country will be sitting on a keg of gun power that fails to guarantee the future of the younger population which the street children constitute a significant percentage. Some authorities say these children, who the societal has come to label as street urchins, area boys, hoodlums and miscreants, represent the face of hunger, insecurity and social neglect".