As children in Nigeria thronged public places in droves to celebrate this year’s Children’s Day yesterday, six of their counterparts were being held captive by daredevil kidnappers who snatched them from their school, Model College Igbonla, Epe in Lagos State. The students were taken away from the citadel of learning on Thursday after their abductors had earlier written to the school informing the authorities of their intention. The students, all male, were taken from their dormitory and led out through a bush path to waiting boats by the kidnappers. This was sequel to a similar incident in which four students of the school were abducted in October 2016.
This is just one of the many cases of kidnapping involving children in the country lately. This is in addition to cases of violence against children, pedophilia, and rape amongst others, that have assumed a frightening dimension lately. Recently, in Port Harcourt, a man killed his seven-year-old son for allegedly stealing N3,200 from him. In November 2016, a 40-year-old man raped a six-month-old baby in Potiskum, Yobe State. Similarly, another infant was raped by a 30-year-old man in Kano recently, drawing nationwide condemnation. Observance of Children’s Day is aimed at creating awareness on precarious situations children face. On the occasion of this year’s Children’s Day, we will like to draw the attention of state governments that are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act (2003 ) in their states to expedite the process of domestication, while we call on the 24 states that have domesticated the Act to put modalities in place for its enforcement. Besides the child rights Act, there is also the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP Act, 2015). All of these laws are well drafted with clear provisions to protect the Nigerian child. We find it disturbing that in spite of existing relevant legislations, all manner of wickedness is being perpetrated against children without any form of redress from those charged with enforcement of the laws.
In Nigeria today, despite the existence of free education policies in some states, a significant percentage of the country’s population, which comprises children, still do not have access to education. Many children roam the streets daily hawking wares to make money for their families. In spite of the Almajiri school programme of the previous administration, the issue of child street begging remains a knotty problem for governments in the Northern part of the country. Elsewhere in the country, cases of children accused of being witches and being meted all forms of punishment under the guise of deliverance abound. In this case, the perpetrators of this hideous atrocity and inhumanity of man to man justify their wickedness with certain superstitious belief systems that have become acceptable over the years by the cultures they come from. There is also the issue of child labour, of families engaging children as domestic servants and maids only to treat them shabbily.
To mark the Children’s Day, the federal government in partnership with USAID is to launch a document to stop violence and all forms of abuse against children. In our view, we do not need more laws. As we have argued here before, the problem of Nigeria is not a dearth of good laws but the willingness to enforce existing laws. For us to begin to feel the impact of existing laws as it concerns our children, a lot needs to be done by those involved in the business of protecting our children, through purposeful collaboration.
We call on governments at all levels to bring about practical solutions to the challenges children are faced with. As we often say, children are the future and if we plan to raise a generation of purposeful future leaders, the time to start is now.
Happy Children’s Day to all Nigerian children.