A young human being below the age of puberty or the legal age of majority is considered a child in the eyes of the law. Such a child is therefore entitled to enjoy rights to the highest attainable standard of care, provision, and protection against all forms of violence and abuse under their position as the ward of the state. Violence against children includes all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. Therefore all appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educational measures need to be adopted to protect children while in the care of parents, legal guardians, government, and the community, whoever’s the responsibility it is to care for the child as at that moment.
In Nigeria, violence against children is at a breaking point and should be considered as a critical public state of emergency, the 2011 Nigeria Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey revealed that 90 percent of children aged 2 – 14years were subjected to at least one form of psychological or physical punishment in their household community by caretakers, household members and in schools. Neurobiological and behavioral research indicates that early childhood exposure to violence can affect brain development and can cause a range of mental and physical health problems that can last into adulthood. What then is the future of the next generation of children who would become adults and what do we do to stop this anomaly before it becomes a compound issue as the case may be. This article analyzes the Child’s Right Act and other regulations in charge of addressing the issue of violence against children and emphasizes the role of collaboration to succeed in implementing this law.
Essentially, the Federal Government has taken preliminary steps towards making laws that seek to protect the child. At international and regional levels, Nigeria is a party to treaties committing to protect children from violence, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990), the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2000) and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography (2000). These extensive international regulations have been domesticated and embodied in our law at the National level under the enactment of the Childs Right Act (2003).
The Childs Right Act provides a framework of key principles relating to children’s rights as well as specifies the responsibility and obligations of government, parents, and other authorities and organizations towards the care of children. It also explicitly enshrines the right of children to be protected from violence and sets out a robust child protection framework to respond to violence against children. However, only 26 states including the FCT have adopted the CRA into their state law leaving 10 states consisting of Jigawa, Kano, Kastina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, and Yobe. These acts of the states prohibit the full acceptance of the CRA and hinder the implementation of the CRA in all sectors of the country. This is not good enough on the part of the Government, better effort must be made to ensure that its provisions are adopted by all states and implemented. Circumstances involving children should be dealt with under the CRA to establish a significant body of case law relating to child’s rights protection.
Another relevant current policy document is the National Priority Agenda (NPA) for Vulnerable Children in Nigeria, this document serves as a guiding framework for states to develop their multi-sectoral action plan for vulnerable children, based on their specific situations, contexts, and challenges. This policy was designed to contribute to the achievement of Nigeria’s Vision 2020, a road map for sustainable development and economic growth. Therefore shedding light on the importance of the issue of violence against children and recognizing that reducing children’s vulnerability will positively and directly impact Nigeria’s social well-being and development.
However, like most sectors of Nigeria, we face a serious issue with knowledge of the law and the mechanisms to implement it. Another issue of particular relevance is the fact that the majority of subjects relevant to children including offences under the criminal and penal codes applicable to Southern and Northern Nigeria respectively are not covered under either the exclusive legislative list or concurrent legislative list. This has been the problem with subsequent child’s rights friendly legislation such as the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act 2015 which prohibits among other things, Female Genital Mutilation but it is only applicable in the Federal Capital Territory.
In all of this, it does not even appear as though there is any form of political will either at the state or federal level to give effect to the provisions of the Child’s Right Act and other regulations highlighted. Appropriate legislative, administrative, social, and educative measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, or maltreatment should be made effective and include procedures for the establishment of social programs as well as anti-violence squad to ensure its effective implementation. The Government must provide a safe environment for the children and protect the future of Nigeria, they must be more vigilant and must wake up in their responsibilities.