20th November, 2014
Children are the greatest treasures of life, but as the the world celebrates today the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child from which Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003 was derived, it is evident that the plight of the Nigerian child has not been addressed. The statistics are scary and the insurgency in northern Nigeria with the frequent abduction of children and the bombing of their schools by Boko Haram terrorists has made things even worse this year.
The Chibok girls, kidnapped by the insurgents on 14 April in their school in Borno, sadly clocked 219 days in captivity today, while many other children have been killed or displaced in the war-ravaged northeast since 2009.
Even before Boko Haram intensified its savagery this year, there were already 10 million Nigerian children out of school, several times the population of Gabon and the highest number of out of school children in the world. Even more worrisome is the fact that to date, only about 21 of the country’s 36 states have domesticated the Child Rights Act 11 years after its existence. This partly explains why the landmark legislative achievement has not yet translated into improved legal protection throughout Nigeria.
Nigeria has been unable to deal with several issues hindering the protection of rights of children such as children living on the streets, children affected by communal conflict, drug abuse, human trafficking and the weaknesses of the juvenile justice system amongst others.
More troubling is the scary fact that though the entire world has eradicated polio, Nigeria remains about the only country on earth not to have done so. Besides, many Nigerian children are still being trafficked and used as labourers or sex slaves. But it is not all gloomy. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates that globally since 1990, the number of children under five who die every year, mainly from preventable causes, has reduced by nearly 50 per cent – from 12.6 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. However, neonatal deaths account for a huge 44 per cent of total mortality among children under five, and represent a larger proportion of under-five deaths now than they did in 1990.
These achievements and many others were made possible because of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history, which changed the way children are viewed and treated. While the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the CRC serves as a landmark for several improvements, from declining infant mortality to rising school enrolment, as a country we recognise that we have not gone far enough. All Nigerian states should as a matter of urgency domesticate the Child Rights Act, and the Federal and State Governments should take issues concerning children more seriously.