Today in Nigeria and all over the world, children are marking the International Day of the Child otherwise called “Children’s’ Day”. May 27 every year – the United Nation’s Children’s Day – is a day widely recognized in countries worldwide to promote the welfare of children and to celebrate childhood. It was established in 1925 at the World Conference for the Well-Being of Children held in Geneva, Switzerland.
Children are a pure and undefiled gift from God, and as grownups, we have the job of nurturing our kids to be strong and well. Unfortunately, in the present world, millions of children live without the things we may take for granted, such as the chance to play. Many of these children collect water, work in the field or lack access to proper education, healthcare and adequate nutrition. As a result of poverty, they have few opportunities for recreation and relaxation. International Children’s Day is a completely unknown term to these set of children.
However, in Nigeria, efforts have been made by past and present administrations to give hope to the Nigerian child through the enactment and passage into law of the Child Rights Act. Laudable as this move was, signals from states over its implementation is very worrisome.
Indeed, not long ago, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Zainab Maina alerted Nigeria, nay the world, that only two states in the country are implementing the Child Rights Act. As if that discouraging report was not embarrassing enough, she added that not up half of the 23 states that have domesticated are implementing it.
There is no better way to describe this behaviour by state governments than that of deliberate disrespect and disregard for the future well being of the Nigerian child. The said law was passed in 2003 by the National Assembly to protect the rights of Nigerian children. So far, only Akwa Ibom and Lagos states are implementing the law to the letter.
Over time, there has been a long standing failure by society to protect children from violence, unqualified slavery, and forced labour. That families in many of the states that are yet to implement the Child Rights Act even when the law has been domesticated still consider degenerate and condemnable economic, social, religious and cultural issues as limiting factors in doing the needful is tantamount to killing the future of the child prematurely.
We must recall here that governments in Nigeria includes federal, state and local. State and local governments are in charge of the implementation of the Child Rights Act. Nonetheless, each state has its own government, laws and judiciary. While we note that such intricate levels of governance could limit the resolve by any state government to implement the law, we beg to disagree that such posturing does not and cannot hold water in today’s world.
For a piece of law that recognizes the rights of children, restores their confidence and self-esteem and improves their status as well as empower children with disabilities to enjoy their rights fully as it provides special measures for their care and protection, no sane society can ignore its implementation. We hold this view because all sectors of the society, including government and the people, will benefit from the production of well-rounded and self-confident future leaders.
As the Nigerian children join their peers worldwide to mark his Day today, we wish them the best of expectations within available limits of the law that qualifies them to so enjoy these rights. But we are uncomfortable with the fact that most of their peers in many sections of the country are holed- in strongholds of the past that has nothing positive in store for them.
Accordingly, we task the incoming Muhammadu Buhari administration to give pep to the need for all states in the country to not only domesticate but implement the country’s Child Rights Act of 2003.
In the mean time, we wish Nigerian children and their mates worldwide, a very happy Day.