Following the successful enactment of the Child Protection Law by former Governor Umar Abdullahi Ganduje of the Kano State during the past administration, there has been a massive adoption of the law, with a total number of 35 states that have accepted this law, except Bauchi. Rahama R.M. Farah, head of the UNICEF field office in Kano, commended the Kano State Child Protection Law as a major victory for the city’s children and residents. It is important to note that the Children’s Rights Act of 2003 in Nigeria is based on the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Act in 1989.
The essence of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child considered the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, grants every child the right to survival, growth, protection, and participation. The convention also emphasises viewing children as individuals and members of families and communities. Regrettably, the situation for the average Nigerian child regarding their rights remains pitiable. Empirical evidence spanning several decades supports the deep concern regarding the number of out-of-school children, victims of terrorism, children with severely low nutritional status, and those subjected to various forms of abuse.
Over 18.5 million children did not have access to education.
In Nigeria, for instance, as of May 2023, over 18.5 million children, 60% of whom were girls, did not have access to education. According to Farah, a major obstacle to children’s education in the north is the frequent attacks on schools by jihadists and criminal groups. This worrying statistic grew substantially from 10.5 million in 2021, which should worry governors of states that have not adopted the Child Rights Act. A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report estimated that 20 million children were not in school. Since 2014, when Boko Haram kidnapped 200 girls from the northeastern town of Chibok, the group has targeted several schools in similar mass abductions.
UNICEF estimates that in 2022, over 1,500 students were abducted by armed individuals. Unfortunately, the average Nigerian child has a very low Human Development Index (HDI) and ranks at the base in terms of both economic and nutritional stability. According to UNICEF, almost two million children in Nigeria, including several pregnant women, are affected by Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). However, only two out of every 10 children that need treatment actually receive it. Children’s rights violations also include the many forms of violence and neglect they experience on a daily basis. Sadly, only a small percentage of these kids get the care they need in a timely manner.
20% of girls and 10% of boys are victims of sexual violence.
Six out of ten children, according to UNICEF data, are victims of violence. Of these, about 20% of girls and 10% of boys are sexual violence victims. With these obstacles, federal institutions, such as the National and State Child Rights Implementation Committees and the Child Development Departments in the federal and state ministries of Women’s Affairs, have been developed to handle their protection issues. It is important to keep in mind that the Child Rights Act creates a legal structure to safeguard children’s rights in every state. Now that the law has been passed, it is up to each state to provide the resources and infrastructure needed to put it into effect.
Nigeria’s future can only be bright if its future leaders are intentionally supported and nourished. It is not enough to sign the law into effect; instead, it must make active efforts to solve the daily issues the children experience by building tangible structures for delivery. It is imperative that the next administration take this step and allocate sufficient resources to guarantee the full enforcement of the law. Bauchi state is urged to follow the lead of its counterparts and implement reforms without further delay. Similarly, states that have already passed this legislation have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the children.
Effective collaboration is needed to protect children’s rights and welfare.
Therefore, it is the duty of the government, the community, and every individual to work together for the benefit of children’s rights and welfare. The avoidance and handling of childhood abuse requires the establishment and enforcement of legal safeguards for children. To guarantee the full enforcement of these laws, state governments should prioritise putting in place the required frameworks, allocating sufficient resources, and working with relevant parties. Protecting the children is the only way to ensure Nigeria has a prosperous future.