May 27, 2018

The Child Rights Act And Need For Stricter Enforcement | Adedunmade Onibokun

The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that children, young persons and the age are protected against any exploitation whatsoever, and against moral and material neglect.

Section 17(3)(F), 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

On the 6th of March, 2018, the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly passed resolutions which followed a motion by Senator Benjamin Uwajumogu (Imo-APC) which called the attention of the Senate to the ‘increasing rate of child labour, molestation and abuse in Nigeria.’ Mr. Uwajumogu expressed worry over recent data published by the National Bureau of Statistics which showed that 50.8 per cent of Nigerian children; aged between five and 17 years are engaged in child labour.

The above statistic is very unpleasant, especially because child labour is expressly prohibited under the Child Rights Act, 2003. Section 28 of the Act provides that no child shall be subjected to any forced or exploitative labour ; or employed to work in any capacity except where he is employed by a member of his family on light work of an agricultural, horticultural or domestic character. Most especially, Section 28(d) expressly states that no child shall be employed as a domestic help outside his own home or family environment and further provides that any person who contravenes the above provisions shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand Naira or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.

However, an inspection of many Nigerian homes will reveal that this law is hardly enforced as it is quite common to see underage children employed as domestic staffs. There are numerous other rights that Nigerian children are entitled to under the Child Rights Act, 2003, including the right to free and compulsory basic education, however, this right is also hardly adhered to by governments. Many Nigerian States are also yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act as only about 24 states have currently done same, a major factor which still enables child exploitation in those states.

Having been enacted at the National level, the States are expected to formally adopt and adapt the Act for domestication as State laws. This is because issues of child rights protection are on the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, giving states exclusive responsibility and jurisdiction to make laws relevant to their specific situations.

Last year, the National Assembly held a consultative session in the Senate with the Speakers of State Houses of Assembly that had not domesticated the Child Rights Act, however, the remaining states are not getting onboard as quickly as they should.

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ikweremadu has suggested a consideration of the possibility of setting up a special court for enforcing some of these rights of the children so that those who flout them will be punished adequately, however, this may not entirely solve the problem of enforcement as courts only adjudicate over matters brought before them and there currently exists family courts in the Magistrate and High Courts. I on the other hand suggest a strengthening of the agencies responsible for providing child care supervisory roles such as the ministries for youth development or the creation of a child protection agency with a mandate to critically address the protection of the Nigerian Child.

Furthermore, the spate of insecurity in the North – East has adversely affected many Nigerian children as the UNICEF Nigeria Humanitarian Situation Report, 01-31 March 2018, reveals that there are about 4.5 Million Nigerian Children in need of humanitarian assistance. As we celebrate Children’s day, today, May 27, 2018, the issues of violence against children, child molestation, child labour and other evils committed against children still remain a grave concern.

 The Child’s Rights Act 2003 (CRA) incorporates all the rights and responsibilities of children, and which consolidates all laws relating to children into one single legislation, as well as specifying the duties and obligations of government, parents and other authorities, organizations and bodies. The Act also provides for legal issues affecting the Nigerian child including, the duty of the State to protect children and investigate the plight of children who need special care and protection; child labour; harmful publications that negatively influence children; adoption, custody and guardianship of children and the Child Justice Administration system. 

You may read further on the rights of children under the Child Rights Act in this article.

Adedunmade Onibokun Esq.

Images - Dr. Bukola Saraki, Senate President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, today 27th May, 2018, on a visit to the IDP Camp in Benue while spending time with the children in celebration of Children Day. 

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