There are growing concerns that cases of child abuse are on the increase in Kaduna State as a result of lack of political will by the state government to domesticate Child Right Act, says PHILIP YATAI
Concerned residents of Kaduna State have expressed worry about a development they describe as soaring rate of child abuse in the state. In response to the development, stakeholders in child protection in the state met recently in Zaria to examine ways of dealing with the practice.
Mrs Ladi Alabi, Child Protection Specialist, United Nation International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), said that the thrust of the meeting was to bring stakeholders together to suggest methods of checking child abuse. “We realised that the failure of the state to domesticate the Child Right Law (CRL) passed by the National Assembly in 2003 was seriously undermining the ongoing fight against child abuse with insignificant result.
“UNICEF decided to bring stakeholders together as part of its effort in supporting government initiative and plans to look into the existing 2009 Kaduna State CRL draft.
“Our goal was to look into the draft, highlight the controversial areas, tackle the hitches, the misconception and come up with something new and agreeable that could be passed by the Kaduna State House of Assembly,” she said. Alabi insisted that the laws being used in protecting the interest of the child in Kaduna state were obsolete.
“Anybody who wants to help a child or work towards the welfare of the child has the heckling task of checking multiple laws. It will be more effective to have one comprehensive law, which is the CRL that contains the fundamental component of what it takes to safeguard the welfare of the child.
“The law will ensure holistic delivery of safety and welfare for the child and will make it easier to advocate in terms of system building, structures and service delivery”, she said.
Calling for further proactive measures to check child abuse, Mrs Inna Audu, Principal Legal Officer, National Human Right Commission (NHRC), Kaduna State Office, said that out of about 100 cases on the commission’s desk in the last seven months, about 60 per cent were child abuse related cases.
“The cases involve rape, abandonment, neglect, physical abuse, child labour and exploitation; the list is endless and continued unabated due to absence of legal framework with which to effectively tackle the menace,” Audu said.
Similarly, Mr Shehu Maiyaki, Child Desk Officer, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, said his office received high number of child abuse cases daily, ranging from battery and rape to neglect.
“The situation is pathetic and no reasonable result would be achieved without enabling laws with which to prosecute offenders,” he said. Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Juliana Joseph of the Kaduna State Committee on Justice for All, said that cases of child abuse in the state were enormous, but most of the cases were not reported.
She advised that governments at all levels and parents must make issues of child development a priority.
“A lot of parents do not live up to their responsibilities, as most of these cases of abuses take place in the homes unnoticed. The government of the day has a responsibility of strengthening the institutions that are supposed to cater for children in difficult circumstances and improve funding of child protection issues”, she said.
In her view, Mrs Ayiku Thomas, a lawyer with Kaduna State Ministry of Justice, described the rate of child abuse in the state as worrisome. According to her, both male and female children are being sexually abuse every day by care givers, drivers, domestic staff and security men in our homes and in the streets.
She told the participants that last year, 80 per cent of reported child abuse cases in the state’s Ministry of Justice were rape cases involving minors.
But Mr Atabo John, State Coordinator, Capacity Plus, a USAID-funded project to strengthening health systems, blamed the development on lack of coordination among systems and institutions charged with the responsibility of protecting children.
He noted that child protection issues must be managed at different levels in the society including household, community, local and state governments. He said that most children suffered a lot of atrocities because there was no law that spelled out what must be done by whom and how.
“We heard of baby factories in the eastern part of the country and other places, but we equally have those systems here, running illegally under our nose. Also, if you go through cases that have gone through the courts in the past one year, you will discover that it is easy to throw out a rape case.
“This is because people will always prefer to settle out of court for fear of social stigma and the perpetuator goes and commit the crime again,” he observed.
According to him, the push with UNICEF to strengthen the legal framework through the adoption of the CRL in the state remains the bases for which any other structure can operate.
Participants, nonetheless, pointed out that lack of awareness on the content and the gains of the CRL were partly responsible for the delay in its adoption in the state. They, therefore, agreed that there should be massive awareness campaigns on the CRL to gain public acceptance. Mr Silas Ideva, organisational development specialist, observed that the push for the domestication of the CRL would remain a mirage without adequate awareness campaign.
“People are not informed about the content of the law. They are not even aware of this law. There are so many gaps in awareness on the need for the child rights law. The public need to be aware that it is not a law to entrap the parents; it is rather a law that is trying to ensure children’s entitlement to welfare in the state,” he said.
In addition to this, Malam Ibrahim Kufena, Secretary, Kaduna State Chapter of Jama’atu Nasir Islam, said there should be consistent campaign in the media, mosques and churches to expose the ills of child abuse. Corroborating his view, Rev. Sunday Ibrahim, Executive Secretary, Kaduna State Christian Association of Nigeria, solicited a state-wide enlightenment campaign, targeting households, communities, and local government councils, on the need to protect children from all forms of abuse.
In response to the calls, Mr Ibrahim Musa, Acting Director, Social Welfare and Child Development, Kaduna State Ministry of Women Affairs, said enlightenment campaign would be done via media outfits, churches, mosques, community-based organisations and town-hall meetings. The director said that the stakeholders would also carry out advocacy visits to relevant faith-based institutions, traditional rulers and government bodies, to seek their support.
Giving more hope for effective fight against child abuse, Malam Yusuf Liman, the chairman, House Committee on Education, Kaduna State House of Assembly, reiterated that the assembly would ensure smooth passage of the CRL bill when presented to the house.
All in all, the residents of the state and the participants at the meeting hold the belief that the fight against child abuse will be effective if the CRL is passed by the state house of assembly.(NAN)