DOCUMENTS sourced by The International Centre for Investigative Reporting (The ICIR) from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) show that there was a total of 212,480 child rights abuses complaints received by the commission, nationwide, in the year 2020.
Complaints ranging from child trafficking to child labour, child marriage, sexual abuse, children abandonment, and others were made to the commission.
Of the total 212,480 complaints received, Delta, Edo, F.C.T, Imo, and Borno have the highest number of complaints received by the commission in the year 2020.
Delta topped the list with 37,363 complaints, F.C.T with 19, 272 complaints, Edo with 17,792 complaints, Imo with 17,094 complaints, and Borno with 16,373 complaints.
The document, which is the most recent annual compilation of reports by the commission also shows that complaints of rights abuses were on the rise in the year 2020.
According to reports, the COVID-19 lockdown which lasted for more than three months in the country was a breeding period for rights abuses, as the country witnessed cases of violence and rights abuses which called for an urgent intervention by the Rights Commission.
Child Rights offenders are expected to be prosecuted under the Child’s Rights Act (CRA), however, some states have not domesticated the act.
The Child Rights Act (CRA) was adopted in Nigeria in the year 2003. It is an expansion of the human rights bestowed on Nigerians in 1999 to children.
Children as defined by Child’s Right Act (2003) is any person under the age of 18.
It is the law that guarantees the rights of all children in Nigeria.
According to the National Human Rights Commission, 24 out of the 36 states of the country have adopted the law, including the Federal Capital Territory. There are therefore eleven (11) states in Nigeria that are yet to adopt the CRA in their laws of the 36 states of the country.
States that have domesticated the law are Taraba, Benue, F.C.T, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Niger, Plateau, Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo. Others are Osun, Oyo, Delta, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo.
States that are yet to domesticate the law are Borno, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Kano. Others are Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara.
A report by the Centre for Democracy Development (CDD) says that insecurity also add to violation of children’s rights. For instance, in insecurity-infested states, parents take their female children to become brides to bandits in a bid to negotiate for safety.
The report which is, titled ‘Northwest Nigeria’s Bandit Problem: Explaining the conflict drivers’ highlighted the driving forces of banditry and insecurity in northern states.
“The conflict has exacerbated the commodification of women, as some families give their daughters (many of whom are still children) to bandits as brides in return for protection.
“Children are also victims of the conflict, both in terms of direct violence and because many become orphans or are forced out of school,” the report noted.
Findings by The ICIR show that prosecution of Child Rights offenders in Nigeria has been very low compared to the statistics of complaints received.
Of the 24 states that have passed the CRA into law, Ekiti, Edo, Akwa-Ibom and Lagos,are some of the states with proactive methods of prosecuting children’s rights offenders, especially sexual offenders, which they do by taking action of naming and shaming sex offenders in the Sexual Offender Register.
The National “Sexual Offender Register” is managed by Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking Persons (NAPTIP).
Borno state, one of the five states with the highest child rights abuses complaints received by the NHRC is yet to pass the Child Rights Act into law. This would only mean that complaints may not be attended to, and if they are, not under the Child Rights Act.
Findings reveal that there are no government agencies specifically set up to be solely responsible for the affairs of children in the state. However, the Ministry of Women and Social Development is expected to oversee the affairs of children, too.
Other states like Osun and Taraba have Ministries of Women Affairs and Child Development.
Speaking with the ICIR in an interview, a Child Rights Advocate, Salvation Aworanti noted that it’s a commendable development that Children, parents, and guardians now recognise the need to report rights abuses to relevant authorities.
“Unlike before, children are always scared to talk to their parents and guardians about the things happening to them. It’s commendable that children will no longer live in fear, and can always talk about the happenings in their life.
“However, the government needs to make reasonable efforts to find a complementing balance between these complaints and tackling them to bring an end to child rights abuses. There should be measures put in place especially by state governments to address the problems of children. It’s sad that in 2022, we still have states that are yet to pass the child rights act into law. Children’s rights are human rights and as long as we have human rights in place and effective, children’s rights must be upheld too”.
Kemi Adenekan, a gender and child advocate believes that both the federal and state governments are not doing enough in tackling the issue of child rights abuses. In her opinion, the vices continue to thrive because offenders do not get the necessary punishment for their misconduct.
“The ones I’d call basic child abuses like physical abuse are still very unresolved. We can only speak of the greater abuses like child trafficking and child marriage when we already have a good foundation laid. There should be an enforcement of the CRA. It’s so sad that laws are only passed but are not enforced.
Domestication of laws goes beyond the paperwork. What matters most is how we tackle the issues”, she said.
She added that it’s almost of no use if people are implored to make abuses complaints, but there are no follow-ups from the necessary quarters. She mentioned the urgent need to create a Ministry of Children Affairs.
I believe it’s high time we had a Ministry of Children Affairs. Children are an important part of society and we should maximize their potential to the fullest, for the sake of the future.
“I believe it’s high time we had a Ministry of Children Affairs. Children are an important part of society and we should maximize their potential to the fullest, for the sake of the future. While state legislators should work on domesticating the CRA, the Ministry of Children Affairs can serve as a watchdog for enforcement”, Adenekan.
Omolola Pedro is a Reporter/ Fact-Checker at The International Centre for Investigative Reporting. She believes in a society that is fair to all. She has deep interest in Gender Equality, Social Justice, and protection of human rights.
You can reach out to her via mail firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter:@pedro_omolola