The Child Rights Act (CRA) is said to be a document that will safeguard the lives of the Nigerian child, unfortunately despite its rich content most states are yet to domesticate or implement it.
Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states are yet to implement the CRA.
Recently, stakeholders gathered in Nsukka, Enugu State, during the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Stockhom University, Sweden joint international seminar on human rights, environmental law and children’s law to brainstorm on the implications and possible solutions to the issue.
Dr. Emmanuel Obidimma from the Law Faculty, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and his colleague, Dr. Nkechi Okpalaobi explained that before year 2003, under the Nigerian law a community reading of the relevant statutes showed that the law supported the use of corporal punishment on children.
They further noted that after several laws and amendments made between 1946 and 1958, a law was produced which became the Children and Young Persons Act referred to as CYPA.
“Section 11(2) of the Act provided that no young children be ordered to imprisonment if he can be suitably dealt with in any other way either by prohibiting, fine, corporal punishment, committal to detention or to an approved institution or otherwise.’’
This clearly showed that corporal punishment was an approved form of discipline on a child.
The adoption of the CRA which was enacted by the National Assembly in 2003, provides that every action concerning a child, whether undertaken by an individual, public or private body, institution or service, court of law, or administrative or legislative authority, the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.
Section 221(1) (b) provides that no child shall be ordered to be subjected to corporal punishment.
This is so because children are adjudged defenceless and vulnerable hence everything has to be done to protect them.
Since 2007, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has identified child trafficking as a crime against children with 1.2 million victims recorded per year and 32 percent being African children.
Mrs. Oti Ovrawah of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) noted that the convention on the rights of the child was ratified by the Nigerian government and implemented by the 2003 CRA.
This explains that any adult who takes advantage of the child or negatively influences him must be punished. What this states is that, anyone who tries to be cruel to a child by any means, goes against the Act protecting the child so the person must be punished.
Section 30 (1) of the CRA clearly states that no person shall buy, sell, hire, dispose of or obtain possession of or otherwise deal in a child, and (2) b; makes it clear that a child shall not be used as a slave or for the practices similar to slavery such as sale or trafficking of the child, etc.
But one wonders how the trend is still on because it is still observed that most people still use children as house helps and for manual labour as well.
Perhaps the upsurge of crime against children is due to non-implementation of the law in some states.
Ovrawah who explains this, says the implication of the non-implementation of the law in some states makes millions of children not have appropriate legal framework for the protection of their rights.
In the bid to answer the questions nagging the minds of people as to what happens to people who are involved in child trafficking and child torture when caught, Director Intelligence, Public Enlightenment National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Mr. Orakwue Arinze, explained to Daily Trust that whenever complaints are brought to the agency “we investigate and prosecute. That’s the power we have.”
Orakwue points out that the tragic part of child trafficking is the fact that it leaves a devastating impact that lasts over a considerable period on the child.
Children usually do not have any means to escape from the conditions they find themselves because they do not have the means and capacity.
Ovrawah said part of the causes of child trafficking is poverty. As observed and discovered from the various arguments of the stakeholders, most families who are poor are willing to trade their children to go and live as house helps or labour workers to reduce the burden of feeding them.
Some allow their children do menial jobs so that they can send money home and assist their parents.
This brings to the fore the need for every man and woman to become financially stable, no matter how little, in order to cater for their family and prevent poverty and its woes.
Dr. Azubuike Onuora-Oguno of the Law Department, University of Ilorin insists that the girl child as well as every child has a right to education.
He argues that violence against the child does not include only the physical pain being inflicted on the child but denial to education.
“There is every need for government to invest in education and ensure that every child gets access to education,” he said.
From his argument, any government that ensures that only the male child gets access to education, leaving the girl child has violated the rights of the girl child.
Section (12) explains that all forms of discrimination against the woman/girl child should be eliminated and there should be equal rights to education.
Dr. Bala Babaji of the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria noted that violence against children equally occurs and takes various forms.
He said Sharia law requires parents to discipline their children; where a child commits mistakes or offends his or her parents or guardian, it is good to draw his or her attention to that.
According to him, smacking or corporal punishment is an extreme course of action against the child which sometimes turns out to be counterproductive.
But the law insists that children should show respect to elders while the elders show tenderness to the child which he explains was a reciprocal way of life in Sharia.
He pointed out that the Sharia law does not permit corporal punishment against child offenders and as such must be avoided.
“In the event a father killed his child in the name of discipline, according to Hanafi School of Islamic Law, the father will be liable to pay blood money (diyyat) and must expiate (kaffarah).
A teacher who, without the permission of a parent, inflicts corporal punishment on a child in the name of discipline could be held liable for compensation according to Abu Hanifa and Abu Yusuf,” he said.
During her presentation, Dr Abiola Afolabi of the University of Lagos called for peace because most times the children become victims of war.
She argued that children were usually killed and sometimes recruited as child soldiers.
Her presentation recalled that according to the United Nations, in April 2016, Boko Haram insurgents recruited and used 278 children (143 boys and 135 girls). She stressed that 21 girls were used in suicide attacks claimed by Boko Haram and Nigerian children were reported used in suicide attacks not only in Nigeria, but also in Cameroon and Chad.
Of the 1,010 children (422 boys and 588 girls) encountered or rescued during the course of military operations in north-east Nigeria, 204 (117 girls and 87 boys) had been recruited and used by Boko Haram.
The UN suggested that all state governments, especially those yet to implement the Child Rights Act should embrace the law and implement it to ensure that every right due to the Nigerian child is given them.