By Titilayo Ojo
Child abuse can be defined as a situation when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child . The need to take a closer look at this topic emanates from the number of children being abused mentally, physically, emotionally and psychologically on a daily basis in the country.
Several local and International reports have continuously raised the needs to curb this menace which has reared its ugly head in Nigeria and seems to be gaining much ground.
Child Abuse may occur in a home, in an organization, school or the community where such child interacts.
The effect of Child Abuse is the stigmatization poses on the victim; as it tends to impact greatly on society at large. Such children grow to be loveless and emotionally withdrawn and hardened, thereby leading to involvements in all types of social vices which often lead to a troubled society.
Child abuse incidents seen in Nigeria (especially the Northern part), has received less attention. This is probably due to the levity placed on the emphasis to address this ever increasing trend in today’s society or perhaps political/religious sentiments. Another possible reason is the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system should naturally provide the love, care and protection to all children.
There is need now than ever before, to put in place great awareness and effective legal protection for the abused child. It is strongly believed that the legal system will have a far more reaching effect if proper measures are put in place and the enforcement of appropriate laws.
The emergence of the Child Right Act of 2003 was enacted to curb the prevalence to the menace. But sadly, the Child Right Act has not been effectively enforced by our legal system.
The lapses are clearly observable by the number of children we still see on the streets hawking items, being exposed to dangers of kidnappers, molesters, rapists and road accidents. And to think they are fending for not just themselves, but for their entire family calls for serious concerns.
Clearly, parents of such children have flagrant disrespect for the law as the legal system has failed to enforce of the required punishment as a deterrent to curb or discontinue this inhuman activity.
In the Nigerian society, we are not oblivious of the fact that children are used to beg for alms, streets being filled with horrific scene of parents’ inhumanity to children and even babies; exposing such child to harmful environmental substances and dehumanizing circumstances.
Section 30(1) of the Child’s Right Act of 2003 has failed to prosecute offenders of the foregoing acts. The law specifically outlines the prohibition of buying, selling, hiring or otherwise dealing in children for the purpose of hawking or begging for alms or prostitution, etc.
Punishment for such acts as stated in Section 30(3) of the Child’s Right Act provides that a person who contravenes the provisions of Subsection (1) of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of ten years. The prevalence of child abuse in Nigeria due to the fact that the penalty has not been enforced effectively.
At this point, we need to ask these questions: How many of these parents, guardians, caregivers who contravene the law are being prosecuted? This seems rather a rhetorical question.
Another aspect of child abuse is the issue of child marriage by a particular ethnic group in Nigeria without specifically mentioning same has continued in the act. Worse still, the perpetrators of this act include and not limited to the prominent traditional rulers of this ethnic group.
The child in such marriages suffers inhuman treatment in the hands of the so called husband who would forcefully have sexual relations with the child wife. These children are constantly subject to illnesses such as VVF (Vestico Vaginal Festula), which has taken most of these children to their early graves.
The report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) revealed that over 0.4 to 0.8million women suffer from obstetric Fistula in Nigeria, ranking the country as the highest prevalence of obstetric fistula in the world . This brings us to another question, which is, how well are Sections 21 and 23(d) of the Child’s Right Act 2003, being enforced.
Currently, a recent data published by the National Bureau of Statistics which showed that 50.8 per cent of Nigerian children; aged between five and 17 years are engaged in child labour.
The reality on ground is that our legal system seems to aid and abet this menace called Child Abuse. The force of the law is seen to be in the books than in its implementation. There is a need for further orientation in the legal system as the only solution to correcting the ills of the society is in the true enforcement of enacted laws.
It can be recalled that sometime in March, 2018, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over the plenary in the absence of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, proposed establishment of a special court to prosecute cases related to violation of the Child Rights Act.
In his statement, “Nigeria has been a signatory to a number of international conventions regarding the rights of the child including the African Charter, UN Convention on Human Rights as well as local legislation including the Child Rights Act and Universal Basic Education Act which makes education of children compulsory. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to adhere to some of these legislation. I think the problem is not legislation but enforcement. I think it’s time for us to consider the possibility of setting up a special court for enforcing some of these rights of the children so that those who flout them will be punished adequately”.
Without further ado, it is cardinal that Section 14 subsections (2b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which states that: ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’ must be enforced.
Notwithstanding the plethora of recommendations that have been made by corporate bodies, NGOs and private individuals on the work out plan to eradicate the issues of Child Abuse, it is recommended that;
- The recommendations of the Deputy Senate President with regards to an establishment of a special court to prosecute cases related to violation of the Child Rights Act, must be implanted.
- A review of the Childs Right Act should be made to reflect longer imprisonment terms for offenders of the Childs Right Act. Bail should be granted to Childs Rights offenders.
- The Nigerian government should set up or empower already existing organisation(s), primarily to cater for the welfare of victims of child abuse. Such organisation should have professionals in the field of psychology and Counselling, in order to assist the victim be mentally and psychologically balanced. The organisation will also be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of such child; including and limited to education, feeding, shelter, technical trainings, etc.
- It is pertinent for the Nigerian Government (in adopting what is obtainable in other international jurisdiction) to make conscious efforts to provide a foster home or a facility for homeless people, where they will undergo education and skilled acquisition where necessary.
 Article from Child Help, Phoenix, Arizona.
 Article from The Fertile Chick, March 16, 2018.
 Childs Right Act 2003