27 May 2014

Nigeria: Everyday Is Children's Day

Photo: Vanguard
IT SHOULD BE OUR DAY: Celebration of Children’s Day in Abuja


WE delight in ceremonies. We also like the headlines. The vogue is support for the abducted school girls of Chibok. Once they are released, Nigerians would relapse to the child abuse mode the country runs on full time.

Nowhere is the hypocrisy of Nigerian governments more prominent than in the abuse of the child. Our attention for children consists of saying a few "right words" at the "right occasions". We would hear the empty words today to Children's Day.

Does anyone mention the rights of our children - our future - as debates rage about the future of Nigeria? Nothing shows the neglect of the future better than the reluctance of some States to implement the Child Rights Act, CRA, 11 years after it became law.

The illegality of various State Houses of Assembly having to pass or reject a federal law is one case our fiery lawyers shun.

The CRA has, as one of its goals, the elimination, or at least reduction of child labour. Child labourers are house helps, apprentices, hawkers, street traders, market/shop assistants, bus conductors, motor park touts, 'porters', beggars for themselves or aides to adult beggars.

Section 28 of the Act states, "No child shall be a. Subjected to any forced or exploitative labour; or b. Employed to work in any capacity except where he is employed by a member of his family on light work of an agricultural, horticultural or domestic character; or c. Required, in any case to lift, carry or move anything so heavy as likely to adversely affect his physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development; or d. Employed as a domestic help outside his home or family environment".

Subsections (3) and (4) prescribe a fine of N50, 000 or five years' imprisonment or both, for individual offenders while a corporate organisation and its members would be liable on conviction to a fine of N250, 000.

CRA also prohibits child marriages and betrothals. In Section 21, any marriage contracted by anyone under 18 years is invalid. Under Section 22: "(1) No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person. (2) A betrothal in contravention of subsection (1) of this section is null and void". Both provisions are in the Criminal and Penal Codes, though they are hardly enforced.

Why is the National Assembly silent about this assault on its authority?

The height of the hypocrisy is that Governors whose States have refused to implement child's rights join in trumpeting the importance of children to our future.

We have to halt the national hypocrisy of building a future that ignores our children. Children's Day should be daily care we ordain for our children, our future.

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