A Call To Protect The Rights And Welfare Of The Nigerian Child
A child is any young person below 18 years. Every child is unique and deserves to be respected, protected and celebrated.
On the 20th of November, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This was done to improve the quality of life of children worldwide, enhance their dignity, respect their inalienable rights and ultimately mobilise and focus global attention on their physical, mental, moral and spiritual development.
In 2003, Nigeria signed into law the Child’s Rights Act to ensure children’s participation in democratic governance and to give them a sense of belonging in society. The Child’s Right Act incorporates the principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It is a national law that makes provisions for the protection of the rights of a child without discrimination, irrespective of the child’s sex, tribe, religion, political opinion, origin, disability, birth and status.
Today in Nigeria, many children are exposed to a series of hazards. They include sleeping on the streets, hawking, begging, carrying loads and helping adult beggars like the blind. The implications of this are very destructive as some of these children are trafficked, used as baits by hoodlums, sexually exploited and abused. Many are exposed to car accidents and mental and physical health challenges. Many of these children are vulnerable because of poor parenting, poverty, ignorance, peer influence and lack of government care and protection.
There is an urgent need to help, protect and empower such children to make them self-reliant adults, or else they grow to become the nation’s problem.
The failure of many states in Nigeria to pass and domesticate the Child’s Right Act has tremendously increased the rate of child abuse and neglect. Child labourers are now on the increase. Children now work as bus conductors or do manual labour at construction sites. Some beg and hawk, most especially during school hours, as well as work in industries and handle dangerous chemicals.
There are also children who find themselves in conflict with the law. These children are locked up with adult criminals. They come out more hardened or are killed with said adults.
When there is full implementation of the Child’s Right Act in Nigeria, it will create an enabling environment for the survival, development, participation and protection of children. It will indeed build the self-confidence, hope and self-esteem of the children and improve their status. Also, it will help in producing responsible and productive adults with balanced personalities in the family and beyond.
As Nigeria marks yet another Children’s Day, it should be a call on everyone to protect the rights of children and celebrate every child always.
We all know that in every action involving a child, the best interest of that child should be of paramount consideration. A happy child begets a happy family and, in turn, a happy society.