Education Humanitarian News

Nigeria : Child Rights Act a long-awaited victory for the children of Borno State

There was a collective sigh of relief from civil society and local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), among others, this week when Borno State governor Babagana Zulum signed into law the Child Rights Act.

The signing, on Monday, December 10, was described by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as a victory for children in the state. Save the Children International (SCI) said it was a New Year gift. Others said it was a new beginning, an important milestone and a major breakthrough for the conflict-affected children in the state.

Kachalla Grema Kyari, director of ethics and privileges of the Network for Civil Society Organisations in Borno State, said they had been asking the government for almost 20 years to sign the act to protect children from falling victim to rape and other sexual crimes, child labour and all forms of abuse, including being denied their right to education.

“After so much effort by government agencies, civil society organisations, national and international NGOs, the law was finally signed. We are grateful because all children need to be protected and know their rights.”

He called on parents, community and traditional leaders and guardians to engage in awareness campaigns and spread knowledge of the rights of the act so that every child would be protected against abuses of all kinds.

Abdullahi Yunusa, a father, said: “I’m happy about the action that the government has taken because is very important and needed in Borno, where it is all too easy to look away and not act when they hear of violence, such as the rape of young girls. Now offenders can be caught and punished.”

He said poverty exacerbated the abuse of children, many of whom were forced to go out on to the streets to hawk items or to beg because their parents could not afford the high cost of living.

Being out on the streets opened the way for predators and abusers of children, he said.

“I think the government should consider helping poor parents by giving them a little start-up money so that they can build a business and stop having to send their kids out into the streets to hawk or beg. The government has to address the poverty of people living in Maiduguri. It needs to empower the poor – that’s the only way to stop children roaming the streets and getting into trouble.”

Maryam Darel-Jamal, a lawyer in in Maiduguri, said the law was a “long-awaited victory” and that it would ensure the protection of children in the state and punish those who acted against the law.

UNICEF said the state had remained the epicentre of protracted armed conflict for more than 12 years. More than 300,000 children had been killed in Nigeria’s northeast and more that 1 million had been displaced. In Borno State, 330,389 children were out of school, according to the Universal Basic Education Commission. As with Adamawa and Yobe states, the conflict had also affected essential health, nutrition and child protection services.

It said the law provided a legal framework that recognised the rights of children to education, health and protection from all forms of abuse.

“Governor Zulum has done the right thing – and the children of Borno State are the big winners. I commend Governor Zulum, the Borno State House of Assembly and other stakeholders who worked tirelessly to domesticate the Child Rights Act in Borno State,’’ said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s  representative in Nigeria. “UNICEF expects that stakeholders will go on to enforce the rights of children as prescribed in the Borno State Child Protection Law.”

He said children in the state had suffered from the consequences of protracted conflict. Children had died or been maimed from unexploded devices, been kidnapped and recruited and used by armed groups. Girls had been especially affected, including sexual abuse and violence. The law would offer these children hope that things could change and perpetrators would be held accountable.

Mercy Gichuhi, the country director of Save the Children International (SCI) Nigeria, said in a press release that “the passage of the law is a New Year gift to Borno children”, adding that good governance was about listening to the voices of the most vulnerable children, who had been crying out for years for their lives to be protected.

Borno is the 29th state – out of 36 in Nigeria – to adopt the law. Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Yobe, Kano and Zamfara states have yet to sign.

AISHA JAMAL

About the author

Mbodou Hassane Moussa

Journaliste de formation et de profession. Passionné par l'écriture, le digital et les médias sociaux, ces derniers n'ont aucun secret pour lui. Il a embrassé très tôt l'univers des médias et de la Communication. Titulaire d'une Licence en journalisme et d'un Master en Management des projets, Mbodou Hassan Moussa est éditeur Web du journal en ligne Toumaï Web Médias. Aujourd'hui, il est devenu Webmaster à la Radio Ndarason internationale et collabore à la réalisation du journal en langue française et dialecte Kanembou.

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