STATEMENT ON THE CELEBRATION OF CHILDREN’S DAY 2017
As we celebrate the Nigerian Children’s day 2017, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a Knowledge Institution recalls that Nigeria is a signatory to a number of international and regional standards on the rights of the child including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Declaration on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. We further recall the Child Rights Act and its versions at the state level, the Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act, 2004, (UBE Act), etc. provide for various dimensions of the rights of Nigerian children.
Under these standards, the Nigerian Government has a duty to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of all children within her jurisdiction. The duty to respect implies that Nigeria must take no steps to obstruct the enjoyment of already entrenched children’s rights and the government must recognize existing rights. No derogations are permissible from government agencies. Protection bound mechanisms require the government to protect children’s rights from violations by third parties, whilst government must directly intervene under the fulfillment obligation to directly provide services required to fulfill the rights of the child, where the child or her parents for no fault of theirs cannot provide for basic welfare.
The 2017 Children’s day celebration therefore offers an opportunity for new beginning and a critical reappraisal of the state and non state actors’ commitment to the fulfillment of the rights of the Child. It is also an opportunity to say “never again” to violations of the rights of the Child in Nigeria and for the state to take full cognizance and begin to fulfill its three tiered obligations.
CSJ notes that a large percentage of Nigeria’s population are children and the fact that many Nigerian children are denied the right to live a dignified life in full recognition of their basic rights and freedoms. With increasing poverty, joblessness, poor macroeconomic fundamentals affecting the parents and guardians who take care of children, it is clear that Nigerian children cannot be said to be living lives in larger freedom. A situation where workers are owed by governments for over six months and pensioners are not paid at all cannot place parents and guardians in a position to play their expected roles towards children and young persons.
Despite the Universal Basic Education Programme, Nigeria harbors more than ten million out of school children. Those who are lucky to be in school endure poor learning environments leading to poor learning and educational outcomes which fail to position them to take advantage of the opportunities of the new world realities. Many Nigerian children are stunted and malnourished and do not get the necessary food needed for their healthy development. The enjoyment of the highest attainable state of physical and mental health is a pipe dream for majority of Nigeria’s children. Preventive and curative health services are at their lowest ebbs since the attainment of independence in 1960. Access to adequate water and sanitation facilities is lacking in many parts of Nigeria and is negatively affecting the well-being of children. Again, the Federal Government failed, refused and neglected to provide for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (a statutory transfer of 1 percent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government as provided in section 11 of the National Health Act, 2014) which should have been dedicated to a great extent to the right of the child to health.
Nigerian Children are still trafficked and subjected to child labor. In some parts of Nigeria, early and Child marriage is still in practice – at a time the Children cannot in fact and in law be in a position to give their consent to marriage. It is sad to note that Nigerian children have been used as child soldiers by the Boko Haram insurgents and some have even been involved in suicide bombing and in the process extinguishing their lives and that of others. In the North East, Nigerian children are trapped in areas that are inaccessible to humanitarian services and are the first and major victims of the insurgency especially in cases where their parents are no longer available to play their role as parents or guardians.
In the light of the foregoing, CSJ calls on the federal, state and local governments to:
- Make adequate budgetary provisions for the fulfillment of children’s rights especially in the areas of adequate housing, education and health. This should be followed up with appropriate and timely budget fund releases and full implementation of budgetary provisions.
- Commit to the realization of the objectives of the international, regional and national standards.
- Provide for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund in the 2017 federal budget
- Pay workers and pensioners all their due salaries and pension to position them to take responsibility of their children.
- Enforce the law and policy against Child marriage, forced labor and trafficking in Children.
- Intensify the war against Boko Haram insurgents so as to make all parts of the North East accessible to humanitarian aid; hold accountable all persons, authorities and agencies managing resources meant for the alleviation of the plight of Internally Displaced Persons and humanitarian aid in the North East. Also the government should ensure that children are not used as child soldiers to perpetuate violence and further the ends of terrorism.
CSJ calls on non state actors, especially the private sector, academia, civil society, the media, the church and the mosque, women and youths groups to redouble their efforts and ensure that our future is not jeopardized by ensuring full respect of the rights of Nigerian children.
In conclusion, this generation have no other children to look up to and to replace our stock when we are gone than the present crop of Nigerian children. We must therefore all join hands to ensure that they thrive, are properly trained and equipped for the tasks of tomorrow. This is the minimum we owe Nigerian Children!
Eze Onyekpere, Esq