FAILURE OF CHILD’S RIGHTS ACT IN NIGERIA
By: Haruna Mohammed
The most relevant protective law meant to safeguard the rights of children in Nigeria and protect them from all forms of abuse is the Child’s right Act. However, it is unfortunate and disheartening that only a handful of Nigerians know about the rights of children or what to do as prescribed by the Child’s Right Act.
Our law enforcement agencies, relevant government ministries, NGOs and CSOs ought to have a copy of this law handy to ensure effective handling of child abuse cases but reverse is the case.
For this, though we have a great law for the protection of child’s right in Nigeria, awareness on the law and its implementation is very poor or nil
What then are Reason for the almost 0% Implementation of the Child’s Right Act?
It appears there is a system failure or disregard towards the implementation of the content of the Act which is applicable in all states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory and mandates all states to ensure that the interest of a child is top priority when taking any action in respect of the child.
To ensure the rights of the child is protected, the law mandates states to: 1. establish 2 levels of Family Courts in each state at the High Court level and the Magistrate Court level but, most states have failed to implement this provision thus inadvertently contributing to the increasing neglect of child abuse cases in the states
Though the Child’s Right Act is divided into 15 parts, we shall focus on parts 2 and 3 of the Act.
Part 2 basically covers the rights of a child and Part 3 is on the protection of the rights of a child
We shall also highlight other relevant issues such as Safe Custody and Foster Care provided by the Act- Rights of a Child
A child is entitled to all the rights provided by the Nigerian Constitution which include right to life, freedom of thought, movement, association, speech, etcetera
In addition, every child has a right to survival and development, right to name, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, thought, conscience and religion.
These rights however, are subject to necessary guidance and directions by the child’s parents or guardians.
Right to private family life, right to freedom of movement is subject to parental control that is not harmful to the child.
Right to freedom from discrimination, right to dignity of the child, must be free from mental, emotional, physical abuse, neglect or injury, maltreatment and sexual abuse
Right to leisure, recreation and cultural activities, right to health and health services, right to parental care, protection and maintenance, right to free compulsory universal primary education and further studies, right to special protection measure where required, right to protection against harm when formed before birth (unborn child protection)
To every right there is also a responsibility. Therefore, children also have responsibilities towards their families and community.
What then are those responsibilities of a child?
A child shall, subject to his/her age and ability and any other limitations be responsible towards his/her family, society and Nigeria and as such,
– respect his/her parents, seniors, elders and assist in case of need
– work towards the cohesion of the family and community
– contribute to the well-being of the community
– preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity
– preserve and strengthen the independence and integrity of Federal Republic of Nigeria
– respect the ideals of democracy, freedom, equality, humaneness, honesty and justice for all persons
– promote tolerance unity and solidarity irrespective of culture and traditions amongst Nigerians, Africans and the whole world
The rights and obligations aforementioned may seem irrelevant to our discussion on child abuse but it’s important to always remember them to be able to navigate intricacies that may arise in handling cases of child abuse.
For instance, we owe it to our children and others in our community to educate them of their rights and obligations so they can comport themselves accordingly and be aware of how they should be treated by the adults around them. This will enable them speak out immediately there is apparent apprehension of the violation of their rights
Schools, children clubs and associations, NGOs/CSOs,Media and NOA have a great role to play towards creating better awareness on the Child’s Right Act, the rights and responsibilities of all persons.
Here are some punishable offences and their punishments for the protection of the rights of Children
– Every person under the age of 18yrs is incapable of contracting a valid marriage.
– No parent, guardian, or other person shall betroth a child to any person
Punishment for violation
Fine of #500,000 or imprisonment for 5 Years
No person shall tattoo or make a mark or cause same to be made on a skin of a child
#5,000 or 1 Month prison term
Exposure to use, production and traffic of narcotic drugs
Use of Children for criminal activities
14 years in prison
Abduction, removal from lawful custody
20 Years – Where a child is taken out of Nigeria with no intention to return the child
15 years where there is intention to return the child10 years
From one state to another but within Nigeria 7 years
Other cases such as forced or exploitative labour
#50,000 or 5years prison term
Buying, selling, hiring or otherwise dealing in children for the purpose of begging, hawking or prostitution
10 years prison term
Sexual intercourse with child
Life imprisonment irrespective of whether the child was believed to be above 18year by the perpetrator
Other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation
15 years prison term
How do we protect or enforce the rights of children
When we perceive that the right if child is being violated or we suspect child abuse, we can take several actions;
– Report to social welfare for investigation and referral to police
– Report to the police for investigation
– Engage the services of a legal practitioner versed in child protection law
– Petition the Commissioner of the relevant Ministry with support of the social welfare for appropriate action such as court order for the removal of the child to safe custody or forestall home, restraining orders, supervision order etc.