Although the Rivers
State Government has shelved an earlier plan to celebrate the 2014 Children’s Day as a demonstration of its solidarity with the abducted Chibok girls, to the child in the street, another Children’s Day is here. A day set aside to celebrate childhood and pay tribute to children. In a bid to protect children from having to work long hours in unsafe conditions; allow them access to learning and to work towards achieving many other rights for children, the United Nations General Assembly in 1954 recommended that all countries establish a Universal Children’s Day on an “appropriate day. Ever since, many countries have been celebrating Children’s Day on different days.
In Nigeria, the day is marked on May 27, by the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). School children usually troop to various stadia, public places in towns and cities all over the country to participate in match-past and listen to speeches from politicians and leaders. Some parents also use the opportunity to take their children to cinemas and other recreational centres. Some state governors’ wives organise parties for some selected children in various government houses as part of events to put smiles on faces of children on this special day.
However, people are beginning to question the relevance of Children’s Day in Nigeria as it has more or less turned to a fanfare. There is barely nothing done by the government to use this day to highlight the real social programmes needed to tackle the myriads of problems children face in the country. Even the scanty programme when organised is targeted at children in urban areas, ever neglecting the rural children.
Despite the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to many conventions aimed at protecting children’s right, the basic rights of the Nigeria Child are still being violated with impunity, Children in many states are still being defiled, openly abused and neglected both in and outside their homes.
The recent happening at Chibok, Borno State, where over 200 school girls were abducted and are yet to be released, the constant massacre of school children by Boko Haram Islamic sect in many northern states are typical examples of how Nigerian Children’s right to education is being infringed upon.
Government at both federal, state and local government levels have not lived up to expectations in terms of making the country a happy place for children. That explains why the former Rivers State Chairperson of Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Mrs Eucharia Someari-Pepple in an interview said, “Our children especially students have gone far, both home and abroad. So many of them are very creative. But you see, these children need encouragement. Even in our various villages, there are so many of them but there is just nobody to talk to them or even make them step out so that they could be able to exploit their potentials or even make them know that there are people interested in what they are doing”.
Even parents are not helping matters as many of them have abandoned their parental responsibilities in pursuit of material acquisitions. Many parents have relinquished the welfare of their children and their upbringing to house-helps and teachers even when some of these house helps barely know their right from their left.
It is, therefore, imperative that for Children’s Day celebration to be meaningful to Nigerian children, all stakeholders – government, parents, teachers should wake up to their responsibilities towards the children.
Instead of turning the celebration into a yearly ritual which bears no fruits, Children’s Day should be used to address issues concerning children, evaluate progress made in efforts to promote, protect and project the rights of children. On this, very important occasion, we should be able to ask, how far has the country fared since the domestication of the Child Right Act in many states? What is stopping the states yet to domesticate the Act from doing so? Nigeria, being a signatory to several international conventions on children, is obliged to take legislative, social and educative measures to further protect children from physical and mental torture, neglect or maltreatment.
Most importantly, the root causes of these challenges facing the Nigerian Child – poverty, corruption, embezzlement should be urgently addressed so as to make life more meaningful for the future generation.
Other states governors should emulate the governor of Rivers State, Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who has invested heavily in these tomorrow’s leaders, knowing fully well that our future can only be assured when we cater adequately both educationally, health wise, and otherwise for these adults in-making.
Contrary to earlier claims that the Child’s Rights Act which was passed into law in 2003 and domesticated in over 2/3 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is yet to create the impact for which it was intended, there are high indications that the Child’s Right law is actually being explored by members of states where it has been domesticated.
Though news about child trafficking, child abuse, child labour, street-begging, early marriage and wide-spread defilement of children still inundate the dailies, Barrister Someari-Pepple says, “these are predominant in states that are yet or have refused to domesticate the Child’s Rights Law, especially states in the core north.
Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi & Calista Ezeaku
Although the Rivers