Editorial: Protecting minors in Nigeria

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In April, the media space was awash with the news of sexual molestation of a minor in Lagos state by a popular Yoruba actor, Olanrewaju Omiyinka James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha. According to the report, the said molestation had been going on for seven years before the issue was exposed after a supposed CCTV camera caught Baba Ijesha red-handed.

Incidents like this are becoming a common occurrence in Nigeria and it is a source of concern for us a media organisation. Several reports and investigations show that sexual molestation of minors happens unchallenged in the country. The unfortunate part is that the victims and their guardians would rather prefer to sweep the issue under the carpet in order to prevent social stigmatization.

According to a study carried out in 2018, out of 398 adolescents interviewed, 25.7% were sexually assaulted. The study also revealed that penetrative abuse occurred in 7.5% and forced abuse in 46.2% of the cases. Also, intra-familial abuse occurred in 7.5% of cases. In all, perpetrators are mostly boyfriends and neighbours of the victims.

The Center for Environment, Human Rights and Development reported that 1,200 girls had been raped in 2012 in River state, and there are also various cases sexual molestation in various parts of the country.

Also, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), in its 2015 report said that one in every four girls and one in every ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. Considering the endemic nature of the scourge, Cece Yara Foundation warned that about 15 million Nigerian children would be sexually abused before adulthood and 11 million of them would deal with the secrecy, trauma and long-term effect along without intervention.

This social abnormal is fueled by various factors which include poor parenting, child labour and the dangerous rise of baby factories. The operators of baby factories prey mostly on young girls who were either kidnapped or given to the operators of these factories, where they are raped for the purpose of procreation and to advance their own nefarious business.

We are concern that the continued prevalence of child sexual molestation is becoming a social pandemic and endangers the lives of the Nigerian children. There is therefore the urgent need to educate children and their parents on ways to prevent and reduce child sexual abuse. Also, proffering ways of getting out-of-school children back into classrooms would go a long way to reduce sexual molestation of minors.

While we encourage parents, guardians to be vigilant, observant and develop closer relationships with their children and wards, when such criminal acts are detected, it should not be swept under the carpet but rather, reported to authorities for prosecution.

We are aware that there are various laws under which violators and pedophiles can be prosecuted, we urge state government that are yet to domesticate the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act, and the Child Rights Act in their states to domesticate in order to protect every Nigerian child and ensure that perpetrators of such acts are brought to book.

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