EDITORIAL: States must domesticate the Child Rights Act

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In 2003 the Federal Government passed the Child Rights Act in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. Based on the democratic system and the political structure of the country, it was expected that the 36 states of the country would domesticate the Act in their various states for implementation and enforcement. For the Federal Capital Territory, the Act became law in the territory automatically being the seat of power and directly under the purview of the President.

The act provides that the best interest of a child is to take precedent on matters that has to do with a child. The Act also specified that Article IV of the 1999 constitution as amended which contains the basic fundamental Human Rights are also entitled to a child. It also provided ways in which a child should be protected from early marriage, punishment that involves adult parties, sexual violence, exploitative labour or being enlisted in any military operation. The Act further obligated the states government to provide emergency protection for a child when necessary.

Unfortunately, eight years down the lane, 11 states, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Bauchi, Yobe, Gombe, Borno Adamawa Katsina, Kano and Kebbi states are yet to domesticate the act.

It is important to note that Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world with about 13.2 million. Surprisingly, the eleven states that are yet to domesticate the Act record large number of these children with Borno, Yobe and Adamawa topping the chart.

There is no denying that children in the country are endangered. According to a survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in collaboration with international bodies in 2014, there is a high prevalence of violence against children in the country with approximately 6 out of every 10 children experience some form of violence.

The report revealed that half of all children experience physical violence, one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence by a parent, caregiver or adult relative.

The report further revealed that violence has severe impact on child’s life and future, stating that “physical violence is associated with higher rates of mental distress, thoughts of suicide, and symptoms or diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections among females and with mental distress, thoughts of suicide, and substance use among males”.

With the high prevalence of suicide in the country, especially among young Nigerians, it is important that the eleven states of the North that are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act fast-track the process to protect the future of the country.

More importantly is the implementation of the act. IMPACT NEWS discovered that states where the Act is domesticated rarely carry out enforcement until reported cases of extreme violation of the rights of any child. We therefore call on the states government of the eleven states that are yet to domesticate the Act to do the needful while we challenge the 25 states where the Act is domesticated should make enforcement viable and strong for the sake of our future.

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