Although legal protection of children in Nigeria dates back to 1948, when the children and young persons ordinance was first enacted, However, the legal protection of children was specifically entrenched in section 17 (3) (f) of 1979 constitution which provides that “children and young persons should be protected against any exploitation whatsoever and against moral and material neglect.
But the said provision was unenforceable because it was only a directive principles of state policy. It is worthy to note that Nigeria is also a signatory to United Nation convention on child rights, which it signed on the 21st of March 1991, but said convention also had no binding force. In 2003, Nigeria adopted the child Rights Act to domesticate the convention on the rights of the child. Inspite of these galaxy of provisions, the Nigeria child is still wallowing in the deep sea of child abuse. As proactive as the Child Act 2003 is, it is sad to know that it is yet to put an end the many suffering of the Nigerian child. Child abuse in Nigeria is increasing and it seems no one cares, Daily, children are sexually abused adults, and this hidden epidemic is gradually eating into our society. Every child has a right to safe childhood, Nigeria as a society owe the child the best has to give.
A lot of emphasis has been made on child labour, child trafficking, child abandonment, stigmatization for witcraft, prostitution, illegal detention e.t.c, but very little notice is being made in respect of sexual child abuse especially the cases of pedophilia.
Pedophilia is the state of sexual desire for a child which leads to possible sexual abuse of a child by a more elderly person. It is a phenomenon that involves abnormal interest in children. It is also psychosexual disorder in which the actual act of engaging in sexual activity with pre-pubertal children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement and gratification. It may be directed toward children of the same sex or children of the other sex.
Pedophilia is defined by mental health professionals as a mental disorder. American legal system defines acting on a pedophilic urge as a criminal act.
The big question is ….what has Nigeria to say about pedophilia? Which has become a disease that is now eating into our existence. Most pedophiles have good interpersonal skills with children and can easily gain the trust of the children. This monstrous act called pedophilia is no respecter of age or innocence infact its preys are always the most helpless and innocent children from 9-10 years of age down to toddlers.
In today Nigeria it is disheartening to know that the barbaric act has become an every day story, and yet the government is yet to establish a law punishing any culprit of the act making it a zero tolerance crime. Pedophilia in my opinion is a spiritual disease that requires deliverance.
One fundamental factor that is hindering the enforcement of the child’s right is the issue of “locus standi” it is trite law that before any action could be instituted the standing of such a person must be looked into in order to do merit to the case. For the impact of the child Act 2003 to be felt, I advocate for the observance of international standards by government and individuals. Although the child right Act affirmed strong desire of the nation to bring to an end the sufferings of childrens, the expression of this desire in the Act cannot bring about dramatic changes in the everyday life of Nigerian children, until its provisions are used as advocacy tool. Like Dr Martin Luther King Jr said “The world is full of evil not because of those who do evil but because of those who sit and let it happen.
May our leaders not sit and watch these unacceptable practices continue as though there are no child rights in Nigeria.
Nkechi Bright Ewere