The Safe Spaces for Children Forum has lamented that the environment where children in Nigeria live, grow, develop relationships and discover their purpose in life, has become increasingly uncertain.
This was made known at one day inaugural interactive forum of child experts and stakeholders in child protection in Makurdi the Benue State, noting that there are many Elizabeth Ochanya that are waiting to be rescued across the country.
Speaking to Global Sentinel, the Convener of Safe Spaces for Children Forum, Mr. Nathaniel Awuapila, noted that the sources of problem for the Nigerian child “are rooted in changes in value systems, changes in family orientation and family stability, a failing social system, and a policy environment that is not protectively enabled”.
As a result, Awuapila said, children are exposed to all manner of violence and increasingly society is less and less capable of dealing with the problem of a creeping, if not pervasive, culture of violence.
Against this backdrop, he said the inaugural expert meeting has been organised in 2018 to discuss and analyse the issues with a view to assessing societal progress toward addressing the problem of unsafe spaces for children.
He noted that for the purpose of problem analysis Benue State was selected as a case study during the inaugural expert meeting with an aim to identify the issues to address and to propose ways forward to guarantee the best interest of the Nigerian child.
“The goal of the Experts Meeting is to identify ways to enable children in Nigeria to live and carve out their identities in a society that is sufficiently safe and where their rights to survival, development, protection and participation can be guaranteed,” he explained.
In a communique issued at the end of the meeting , the Forum decried the situation where children are exposed to all manner of violence in addition to the fact that the Nigerian society is increasingly less capable of dealing with the problem of a creeping, if not pervasive, culture of violence.
“In an effort to enable children in Nigeria to live and carve out their identities in a society that is sufficiently safe and where their rights to survival, development, protection and participation are guaranteed, the stakeholders urged Government to declare a state of emergency on child protection in Benue State,” the communique read.
The Non-Governmental Organisation also reiterated the need to arrest the spate of wanton abuse of children, which has caused the untimely death of innocent children.
On the issue of violence against children and child abuse, the communique highlighted need for Increased and improved number of shelter facilities for victims of violence and abuse and enforce relevant standards established for children institutions.
Stakeholders also called for a better synergy between MDAs and stakeholders on child protection, Provision of equipment and logistics to law enforcement agencies (NPF, NAPTIP, NHRC) and partners who collaborate to enhance their work and an enhanced Media collaboration and support on child abuse and violence
The church and other faith based organizations were also urged to promote child protection messaging that will contribute toward ending violence against children and ensure the enforcement of child protection laws and cultural norms that promote child protection.
The communique further recommends the establishment and implementation of mental health services including psychosocial support centers in the state and adequately fund them to provide much needed services to families and vulnerable citizens.
The experts and stakeholders at the meeting were drawn from all walks of life including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Other Related Offences (NAPTIP), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and Office of the Special Assistant to the Governor on Legal Matters.