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‘Why Child’s Rights Act Still Doesn’t Apply Throughout Nigeria’

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Nigeria adopted the Child’s Rights Act in 2003, giving legal consent to both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the child. The country’s constitution states that for an international law to take effect, Nigeria’s legislature must create a national version.
But as Nigeria operates a federal system of government, the law does not automatically become applicable in all of its 36 states. In terms of the constitution, children’s issues are the preserve of the constituent states. Each state legislature must make the national law applicable within its territory. And only 25 of the 36 states in Nigeria have localised the Child’s Rights Act.
Currently, 11 states, all in northern Nigeria, have yet to domesticate the Child’s Rights Act. There are no records of discussions or debates about the Act in these state legislatures. It has been argued that other laws, including the constitution, are able to protect children. But children in those states are still subject to practices like early marriage, female genital mutilation and begging.
Why The Law Has Not Been Adopted Fully:
Apart from the federal structure of Nigeria’s government, there are other reasons the Child’s Rights Act has not been adopted by all states. Chief of them is religion, coupled with ethnic and cultural diversity. The dominant religions in Nigeria are Christianity and Islam, with a significant population being adherents of traditional African religions.
It may be simplistic to describe Nigeria as comprising “a Muslim North” and “a Christian South”. There are significant numbers of Christians in the north and Muslims in the south. But Islam does dominate in the north, in comparison to the south.
And the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria, along with some legislators from the north, characterised the Child’s Rights Act as anti-culture, anti-tradition and anti-religion. Some of the contentious issues include the definition of the child (a person below 18 years) as it pertains to child marriage, particularly for girls.
Child marriage is a prevalent practice in parts of the north. Children about the age of 10 or 12 years get betrothed or married off. While the Child’s Rights Act prohibits child betrothal and child marriage, there are other operational laws that make exceptions.
The basis for this is that in Islam, puberty is a determining factor in a (girl) child’s readiness for marriage. Fixing 18 years as the minimum age does not fit the doctrine.
Other religious concerns against the acceptance of the Child’s Rights Act include children’s right to freedom of religion, differences in the inheritance rights of male and female children, and the Shariah’s prohibition of adoption, in favour of kafalah, which distinguishes between biological and non-biological children.
Implications:
By ratifying the Child’s Rights Convention and African Children’s Charter, the Nigerian government has the overall responsibility for ensuring these are implemented in a uniform and coherent manner. The government also took on the responsibility of discouraging religious, cultural, customary or traditional practices that are inconsistent with the Charter.
Yet, at the most basic level, the government is failing to live up to this obligation. Children, a most vulnerable group on account of physical and mental immaturity, bear the brunt of this inaction. They are being denied the full protection of the law. And the consequences for many children, besides child marriage and its health and other consequences, include negative impacts on their education and overall development.
With regard to education for example, the socio-cultural Almajiri system remains prevalent in the north. The practice allows children, usually from poor homes, to be sent to “Islamic boarding schools” for religious education. Many, however, end up on the streets as child beggars, seeking alms and menial jobs for daily survival.
Successive governments have failed to incorporate it as part of the formal school system, leaving children exposed to harmful practices and abuses prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Children’s Charter and the Child’s Rights Act. In Nigeria, recruitment of these child beggars by terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram is a real threat or option.
Children Need Uniform Protection
The Child’s Rights Act and the African Children’s Charter define a child as a person below 18 years. But various laws in Nigeria define children differently and for various purposes. The government needs to take the lead in harmonising the various definitions in conformity with these international and regional laws.
A constitutional amendment would ensure unification across the nation. It should leave no loopholes for contradictory laws, particularly at the state and local levels or based on religion or customs. But a constitutional amendment is a Herculean task, hampered by some of the obstacles facing the Child’s Rights Act. It should consider the multi-cultural and multi-religious nature of Nigerian society but focus on the best interest of all children.
While the constitution does not expressly declare Nigeria to be a secular state, a harmonious approach to law making that does not vilify religion is in the best interests of the child. Religious and traditional leaders are “gatekeepers” who cannot be jettisoned. Negotiations with them should not devalue their religion, but get them to become drivers of change for the benefit of children.
The importance of public education campaigns about the issues cannot be over emphasised. The voices of children must also be amplified. Increasingly, examples from the world over show that the power to cause real change begins with the populace. In other words, political will can be secured via a bottom-up rather than top-down approach.
States that have domesticated the Child’s Rights Act also have a role to play in challenging the remaining 11 states to do the same. They can do this by showing concrete evidence of the change in the lives of children in those states.
There is no strong case to be made for domestication if it has not translated into fulfilled rights for children. For example, female genital mutilation, a prohibited harmful traditional practice, is still common in parts of southern Nigeria.
Ultimately, where children are concerned, all actions must be in their best interests. The first step in that regard is applying the Child’s Rights Act across the country.

By: Usang Maria Assim
Assim is of the University of Western Cape.

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Nigeria Of Our Dream

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As Nigeria approaches the 2023 elections, children in Rivers State have been baring their minds in The Tide on what they expect in Nigeria and their leaders from 2023, and their advice to other children.

 

Nigeria Needs Good Leaders – Alice Godwin Udoh (SS1)
For my country Nigeria, I wish for good and considerate leaders that have the fear of God, good schools with equipment and good roads. Also, law- abiding citizens and peace everywhere in the country.
My advice to children is that, they should always put God first in all they do. They should respect their elders,obey their parents and teachers and always live in peace with others.

 

ASUU Strike Should Not Happen Again – Oluwole Anointed (SS2)
My dream for Nigeria is that there should be free education for children and scholarships for students that deserve it.I wish that ASUU strike should not happen again. Let this be the last.
Government should help the less-previledged and defend the rights of the poor.
All children should try their best to make their parents, families and nation proud.

 

I Want A Corruption-Free Nigeria – Virtue Ayomide Lawal (SS2)
I dream of a new Nigeria rising like a plumule of a lily from the myriad of corruption, inhumanity, insecurity and insincerity. I crave for a Nigeria,where justice takes the centre stage, also love and tolerance with leaders seeking first the interest of the citizenry.
I also dream of a Nigeria where I can sleep  with my eyes closed, travel round without fear, stand and express my talents and show the world how gifted I am as a Nigerian.
A Nigeria with the air in the North, South, East and West blowing fresh fragrance of oneness, not the smell of blood. A great black kingdom of power knitted in unity. A nation with an army of gallant leaders paving the paths of greatness for their children and generations yet unborn. A birth of a new Nigeria.
To Nigerian children, do not lose hope. Better days will return, do not write off this nation, do not abandon it, do your little bit,get to know your history. Begin the change with yourself. Share, spark and ignite the fire of positive change into others around you in school, places of worship and communities. Together, we shall build a nation where peace and justice shall reign again.

 

Government Should  Try And Eradicate Poverty – Benjamin Charles  (SS 1)
I dream of a Nigeria in good condition. A country where more than half of the population is not held down by poverty. A country where hardwork provides results regardless of proximity of political powers and wealth, where every graduate will have good jobs waiting for him or her after graduation.
I believe in my dream, hoping for good governance in our country and effective changes in our economic system. When these are achieved, we as children will have a country to be proud of.
As Nigerian children, our dreams would involve driving structural foundation and transformational reforms that will serve to integrate us as a country from the Sambisa Forest of the North to the Fishing Port of the South, down to the Plantain Plantation of the West and finally to the Ricemills of the East.

 

I Want Employment For Nigerian Youths – Ruth Sokari Siyeofori  (SS 2)
I dream of a Nigeria where youths will be employed so that all these kidnappings, stealing, robbery, bunkering and cultism will stop. I wish that the discrimination against the poor will stop. The government should stop giving the people false hopes but provide good roads, railways, functional hospitals and good potable water.
I wish for good leadership and governance in my country, Nigeria.
My advice to children all over the world is to be respectful to their parents, elders and religious leaders.
We as children should learn to be grateful in all situations because better days are ahead of us. We should also be focused on our education so as to make not only our parents proud but the society at large.

 

Nigeria Needs A Roadmap For Sustainable Growth-  Perfect Eric (SS1)
I want a Nigeria where youths are given the chance to chart a roadmap that outlines a future that works for the good of the citizens, a roadmap that will put the country on the path of development, and make it a place where opportunities abound.
I visualise a Nigeria  where vibrant railway network forms an integral part of our transportation system because a lot of pressure would be taken off our roads thereby making them last longer. A vibrant rail system is important for us as a country  because most cargoes will be transported  by rail. Our political leaders  must strive to ensure that there is security of lives and property  and do whatever it takes to end terrorism, insurgency perpetrated by Boko Haram and other such groups.
I dream of a country where corruption  is checkmated to address the rising scourge of poverty in the country. The current unemployment rate is mind- boggling. So, I dream of a country where jobs will be available for every qualified youth.
I wish government at all levels to find solutions to our pressing challenges, including unemployment which has made many graduates remain jobless after graduation. Put differently, the massive unemployment in the land is part of the reason why many youths consider  acquiring western education as a waste  of time and resources.
Finally, as the country marked her 62nd Independence anniversary on Saturday, October 1, I would like to charge the Federal Government to do all it takes to meet our  expectations as well as create an environment where our dreams can come to fruition and all children  from all walks of life can be proud citizens of Nigeria and boast of her achievements. If we all pull our resources together, we can make Nigeria great again .

 

I Look Forward To Nigeria’s Unity- Ndieze John Paul (JSS2)
My dream for Nigeria is that of equality and unity as a nation. I have a dream that one day, Christians, Muslims, the rich, poor, clean, unclean, able, disabled, male, female shall sit together side by side in brotherhood to pray, work, play and eat.
My hope is for this great nation, Nigeria, our great motherland to be bound in unity, faith, peace, love and progress  for therein lies our motto.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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Nigeria Of Our Dream

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Last month, May 27th, Nigeria celebrated Children’s
Day.The Tide spoke with some children that talked about their  dreams,wishes for Nigeria and advise to other children. Here are their views.

 

Nigeria Needs Good Leaders – Alice Godwin Udoh (SS1)
For my country Nigeria, I wish for good and considerate leaders that have the fear of God, good schools with equipment and good roads. Also, law abiding citizens and peace everywhere in the country.
My advise to children is that, they should always put God first in all they do. They should respect their elders,obey their parents and teachers and always live in peace with others.

 

ASUU Strike Should Not Happen Again – Oluwole Anointed (SS2)
My dream of Nigeria is that there should be free education for children and scholarships for students that deserve it.I wish that ASUU strike should not happen again. Let this be the last.
Government should help the less-previledged and defend the rights of the poor.
All children should try their best to make their parents, family and nation proud.

 

I Want A Corruption-free Nigeria – Virtue Ayomide Lawal (SS2)
I dream of a new Nigeria rising like a plumule of a lily from the myriad of corruption, inhumanity, insecurity and insincerity. I crave for a Nigeria,where justice takes the centre stage, also love and tolerance with leaders seeking first the interest of the citizenry.
I also dream of a Nigeria where I can sleep  with my eyes closed, travel round without fear, stand and express my talents and show the world how gifted I am as a Nigerian.
A Nigeria with the air in the North, South, East and West breezing fresh fragrance of oneness, not the smell of blood. A great black kingdom of power knitted in unity. A nation with an army of gallant leaders paving paths of greatness for their children and generations yet unborn. A birth of a new Nigeria.
To Nigerian children, don’t lose hope. Better days will return, don’t write off this nation, don’t abandon it, do your little bit,get to know your history. Begin the change with yourself. Share, spark and ignite the fire of positive change into others around you in school, places of worship and communities. Together, we shall build a nation where peace and justice shall reign again.

 

Govt Should  Try And Eradicate Poverty – Benjamin Charles  (SS 1)
I dream of a Nigeria in good condition. A country where more than half of the population is not held down by poverty. A country where hardwork provide results regardless of proximity of political powers and wealth, where every graduate will have good jobs waiting for them after graduation.
I believe in my dream, hoping for good governance in our country and effective changes in our economic system. When these are achieved, we as children will have a country to be proud of.
As Nigerian children, our dreams would involve driving structural foundation and transformational reforms that will serve to integrate us as a country from the Sambisa Forest of the North to the Fishing Port of the South, down to the Plantain Plantation of the West and finally to the Ricemills of the East.

 

I Want Employment For Nigerian Youths – Ruth Sokari Siyeofori  (SS 2)
I dream of a Nigeria where youths will be employed so all these kidnappings, stealing, robbery, bunkering and cultism will stop. I wish that the discrimination against the poor will stop. The government should stop giving the people false hopes but provide good roads, railways, functional hospitals and good potable water.
I wish for good leadership and governance in my country, Nigeria.
My advice to children all over the world is to be respectful to their parents, elders and religious leaders.
We as children should learn to be grateful in all situations because better days are ahead of us. We should also be focused on our education so as to make not only our parents proud but the society at large.

 

Nigeria Needs A Roadmap For Sustainable Growth-  Perfect Eric (SS1)
I want a Nigeria where youths are given the chance to chart a roadmap that outlines a future that works for the good of the citizens, a roadmap that will put the country on the path of development, and make it a place where opportunities abound.
I visualise a Nigeria  where vibrant railway network forms an integral part of our transportation system because a lot of pressure would be taken off our roads thereby making them last longer. A vibrant rail system is important for us as a country  because most cargoes will be transported  by rail. Our political leaders  must strive to ensure that there is security of lives and property  and do whatever it takes to end terrorism, insurgency perpetrated by Boko Haram and other such groups.
I dream of a country where corruption  is checkmated to address the rising scourge of poverty in the country. The current unemployment rate is mind boggling. So, I dream of a country where jobs will be available for every qualified youth.
I wish government at all levels to find solutions to our pressing challenges, including unemployment which has made many graduates remain jobless after graduation. Put differently, the massive unemployment in the land is part of the reason why many youths consider  acquiring Western education as a waste  of time and resources.
Finally, as the country marked her 62nd Independence anniversary on Saturday October 1, I would like to charge the federal government to do all it takes to meet our  expectations as well as create an environment where our dreams can come to fruition and all children  from all walks of life can be proud citizens of Nigeria and boast of her achievement. If we all pull our resources together, we can make Nigeria great again .

 

I Look Forward To Nigeria’s Unity- Ndieze John Paul (JSS2)
My dream for Nigeria is that of equality and unity as a nation. I have a dream that one day Christians, Muslims, the rich, poor, clean, unclean, able, disabled, male, female shall sit together side by side in brotherhood to pray, work, play and eat.
My hope is for this great nation, Nigeria, our great motherland to be bound in unity, faith, peace, love and progress  for therein lies our motto.

By: Ibinabo Ogolo

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How You Go Forward Is Your Responsibility 

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What happened to you was not fair. You were merely a collateral damage on someone else’s war path, an innocent bystander, who got wrecked out of proximity.
We are all hurt by life, some of us from egregious wrongdoings, others by unprocessed pain and sidelined emotions. No matter the source, we are all handed a play of cards, and sometimes, they are not a winning hand.
Yet what we cannot forget is that even when we are not at fault, healing in the aftermath will always fall on us and instead of being burdened by this, we can actually learn to see it as a rare gift.
Healing is our responsibility because, if it is not an unfair circumstance it becomes an unlived life.
Healing is our responsibility because unprocessed pain gets transferred to everyone around us, and we are not going to allow what someone else did to us to become what we do to those we love.
Healing is our responsibility because we have this one life, this single shot to do something important.
Healing is our responsibility because if we want our lives to be different, sitting and waiting for someone else to make them so, will not actually change them. It will only make us dependent and bitter.
Healing is our responsibility because we have the power to heal ourselves, even if we have previously been led to believe we do not.
Healing is our responsibility because we are uncomfortable, and discomfort almost always signals a place in life in which we are slated to rise up and transform.
Healing is our responsibility because every great person you deeply admire began with every odd against them, and learned their inner power which had no match for the worst of what life could offer.
Healing is our responsibility because “healing” is actually not returning to how and who we were before, it is becoming someone we have never been, someone stronger, someone wiser, someone kinder.
When we heal, we step into the people we have always wanted to be. We also are not only able to metabolise the pain, we are able to effect real change in our lives, in our families, and in our communities. We are able to pursue our dreams more freely. We are able to handle whatever life throws at us, because we are self-efficient and assured. We are more willing to dare, risk, and dream of broader horizons, ones we never thought we would reach.
The thing is that when someone else does something wrong and it affects us, we often sit around waiting for them to take the pain away, as though they could come along and undo what has been done.
We fail to realise that in that hurt, we had the most important lessons of our lives and the fertile breeding ground upon which we can start to build everything we really want.
We are not meant to get through life unscathed.
We are not meant to get to the finish line unscarred, clean and bored.
Life hurts us all in different ways, but it is how we respond and who we become that determine whether a trauma becomes a tragedy, or the beginning of the story of how the victim became the hero.
Culled from January Nelson.

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