LEADERSHIP of the in-coming National Assembly, like ones before it, is about privileges. None of the aspirants to these important offices has deemed it necessary to tell Nigerians his leadership direction. What do they think about our children? Will rights of Nigerian children ever command passion? Will change include our children’s rights to meaningful life?
Every child has a right to life
Every child has the right from birth to a name, a nationality, and cared for by parents
Every child has a right to health and health services
Every child has the right to be protected from hazardous or harmful work and economic exploitation
Every child has the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
Every child has the right to an education
Every child has the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Every child has the right to an adequate standard of living
Every child capable of forming views should have the right to express those views freely in matters affecting them
Every child with disabilities should enjoy a full and decent life, in dignity, in conditions that promote self-reliance and facilitate child’s active participation in the community
Twenty-five years after adoption of UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child – summarised above – Nigeria is among leading nations in maltreating children.
About 17,000 children under the age of five, according to UNICEF’s statistics, still die daily from preventable causes, girls, in some societies, stay home while their brothers attend school. Access to
medical facilities remains limited; while child labour and exploitation are flourishing.
Nigeria observes child’s rights in breach. The 2003 Child’s Rights Act, CRA, drew its provisions from the UNICEF convention, copiously quoted above, and include fines and imprisonment for violations. The law is ignored, from governments that have refused to recognise it to individuals who torture children.
States domesticate the CRA, a practice under which they throw out aspects of the law they do not want. Unchallenged violation of the law – no State can amend a federal law – applies only to the CRA and the Freedom of Information Act, two laws that bear great importance to our future and, present. The National Assembly silence sustains this travesty.
Child marriages are practised in parts of Nigeria. Millions of children are out of school and there are inadequate provisions for their health, sports and recreation. Physically challenged children are ignored or taunted.
Nigeria cannot build a future without children – healthy and educated children.
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