The National Human Rights Commission (NHCR), Plan International and other stakeholders have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to give children a gift by granting speedy assent to the 2018 Child Protection and Enforcement Agency (establishment) Bill.
This was the major highlight at a one-day symposium to commemorate 2018 Day of the African Child (DAC), themed: ‘Leave No Child Behind in Africa’s Development’ organised by the NHRC, PLAN International Nigeria and the Network of Civil society Organisations against Child Trafficking Abuse and Labour.
DAC is celebrated every June 16, in memory of children massacred in 1976 in Soweto South Africa as they protested against discriminatory practices within the education system.
The Executive secretary of NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, while speaking at event, explained that the bill, when passed, would ensure that the interest and right of every Nigerian child is properly taken care of; especially in the three critical human rights issues of education, children in displacement and children living with disability.
Ojukwu noted that the 2018 theme which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasises the need to promote and mainstream the rights of children at all levels of budgeting, policy formulation, planning and implementation.
He said: “It is pertinent to note that all the SDG’s 17 and their 196 targets touch on the rights of the children. The theme therefore raises commitment and accountability by calling on states to fully implement the SDGs while prioritising children interest and taking them along in all planning and implementation process.
“To this end, states are called in to develop national strategies to ensure the inclusion and participation of children in issues affecting them broadly and that those farthest behind are taken along and their interest prioritised in National action.”
He also noted that despite the adoption of the Child Rights Act in about 25 states and other legislations legally protecting the child, Nigeria continues to grapple with inherently high incidences of child rights infringement.
“Intersecting with culture and poverty, abuse and relegation of child rights issues is endemic and visible across all the child rights themes ranging from street children, to child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation, child trafficking, child labour and other actions of violence against children,” he said.
To this end, the Executive Secretary called for the adoption of the Child Rights Act by states that have not done so, and also effective implementation of child rights law by states that have adopted the Act.
Also speaking, PLAN International’s Country Representative, Dr. Hussein Abdul represented by the Head of Programming and Business Development, Mr. Orji Ogbureke, observed that in the matters of child rights, a lot still needs to be done in Nigeria.
Ogbureke stated that PLAN’s goal is to make sure that children, particularly girls Learn, Lead, Decide and Thrive.
“We say learn because we believe that children must be given the right and access to quality education; they should be provided with life skills to live a fulfilled life.
“We say lead because Nigerian children must participate and be drivers of change; they should not be left behind; they should be given the opportunity to participate and be drivers of change.
“They must live in protective environments in their family, schools, communities and states. There must be an enabling environment for them to grow and fulfil their potential,” he said.
Also speaking, the UN Women country representative, Comfort Lamptey, represented by Mrs. Patience Ekeoba, lamented over the increasing cases of child abuse.
Ekeoba said reports showed that over 500 cases of sexual abuse have been reported from January to April 2018 alone. According to her, the symposium is an opportunity to think and reflect on all the affected children.
She also announced that the UN Women, in its commitment to addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV), has launched a spotlight project to address the issue of child marriage. She said UN Women is also working to restore livelihood in the North East for families of these children