One hundred and twenty-four children were abducted from the streets in Nigeria in the last five years. The figures represent reported cases that happened outside the schools between 2017 and 2021 and do not include major school-related abductions which according to the Representative of United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, affected 1,440 children in 2021.
Hawkins said 16 children were killed in the 25 attacks on schools last year. The attacks affected the education of the Nigerian children as no fewer than 618 schools were closed in six northern states over the fear of attacks and abductions. While the schools were shut, the spate of attacks, abductions and killings continued in homes and communities.
- Farmers count losses as heavy wind ravages crops in Sokoto communities
- Abuja faulty traffic lights: Motorists lament loss of man-hours, accidents
From the reports compiled by Daily Trust Saturday, the 124 children picked by criminals from the streets were mostly either abused or killed in the aftermath.
The data shows that nine incidences were recorded in 2017. This include a 10-year-old boy killed in Maiduguri for non-payment of ransom. Also, three children were kidnapped from their father’s house in Firo Village of Ganjuwa Local Government Area of Bauchi State. Reported cases increased to 15 in 2018 and rose to 29 cases in 2019.
2020 had the highest cases within the five years under review with 37 cases. In 2021, 34 cases were reported, including that of Hanifa Abubakar, a five-year-old girl abducted by one of her teachers in December 2021.
She was later discovered to have been murdered and buried in a shallow grave allegedly by Abdulmalik Mohammed and Hashim Isyaku in a private school premises at Kwanar ‘Yan Gana, Tudun Murtala Quarters, Nassarawa LGA, Kano State.
Hanifa’s decomposing body was later discovered after about two months of search. The killing sparked wide outrage with President Muhammadu Buhari commending security agencies for being thorough, adding that the investigation should instill more public confidence in the authorities.
While Hanifa’s case is still in the news, some of the cases had gone cold after the initial public outcry that follows their discoveries. Among such cases is one that involved Ochanya Ogbanje, a 13-year-old girl who died in the hands of her guardians in October 2018. They had subjected her to molestation in Makurdi, Benue State. Andrew Ogbuja, a senior lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic Ugbokolo, and his son, Victor, a final year student at the Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi, were indicted over the incident.
Some campaigners believed cases of such violent crimes against children continue because of absence of laws protecting children’s rights.
Child rights law can make a difference – Lawyer
A gender and child’s rights lawyer, Chinelo Ogbozor, said enactment and proper implementation of the Child Rights Act by states could help curtail cases of abuse against children including rape and abductions.
But to have wider acceptance of the law, she said, there was the need for proper cultural reorientation and public sensitization on the Act.
She said in a society where child molestation and marriage are rampant, it is not enough for the National Assembly to enact laws that would not get the buy-in and re-orientation of the people.
“We still don’t respect the rights of children in Nigeria, especially their privacy. Look at the Oromoni case when they got cleared of the crime, some members of the mainstream media put their names. That is wrong,” she said.
“During the interrogation of the suspected girl in the Ebeano fire, the police put her image on the social media. Tomorrow when she goes to seek for a job, someone will remind her of the fire.”
11 states yet to domesticate Child Rights Act
Despite the rising cases of child molestation, abduction and killing, not all Nigerian states have domesticated the Child Rights Act. Even in states where it had been ratified, governments have reportedly not done enough in curtailing child abduction and abuse.
State governments’ failure to domesticate the Child Rights Act has been recognised as a major impediment to Nigerian children’s growth and protection.
In 2003, Nigeria passed the Child’s Rights Act, ratifying both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children. Nigeria’s constitution stipulates that in order for an international treaty to take effect, the country’s legislature must first draft a national equivalent.
However, because Nigeria is governed by a federal system, the law does not immediately apply to all of the country’s 36 states.
Children’s affairs are the province of the member states, according to the constitution. The national law must be made applicable in each state’s territory by the state legislature. Only 25 of Nigeria’s 36 states have enacted the Child’s Rights Act.
The Child’s Rights Act has yet to be domesticated in 11 states in northern Nigeria. There are no records of these state legislatures discussing or debating the Act.
Other regulations, including the constitution, have been considered to be capable of protecting children. However, customs such as early marriage, female genital mutilation, and begging continue to affect children in those states.
The states that are yet to pass the Act include Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Yobe.
Create Child Protection Commission – Activist
The Secretary-General of the National Council of Child Rights Advocates of Nigeria, Archibong Anderson, said the Child Rights Act cannot address abuses meted to children until the implementation machinery is provided.
He said the ratification of the Child Rights Act should not be the sole responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs but a Child Protection Commission should be set up where everything concerning the domestication of the Child Rights Act will be domicile.
“In the ministry, you just have a department Child Development Department. With the government, they are only interested in the social aspect like the Children Day, African Day of the Girl Child, taking children to the presidency and government houses but what about the protection of the children. What are the standards and things that you tell schools to have before they are allowed to operate?” He said.
He said there are more than four major players in child protection, including the family, community, government, institutions and international communities, adding that if one is missing, the cycle of child protection is broken.
He decried children abuse within the homes where they are used for ritual purposes by family members, adding that the community had not fared better as people are only interested in their own children. He said children ought to be protected by the family and community.
While providing an instance with the effort of his organization, he said special machinery is needed, hence the need to have child protection officers.
“We need to put the child protection officers by training teachers. Teachers already have a job that they are doing. We train them and convert them to child protection officers; they report cases of child abuse when it is about to happen and when it has happened what to do,” he said.
The activist said instead of being proactive in tackling the rising inhumane treatment of children, “the Nigeria system waits for things to happen then we react in a negative way by going to the police station and setting up the panel.”
Anderson said the Nigerian government knows what to do “but the problem we are having is square pegs in round holes. It cannot fit,” he added.
Taiwo Adeniyi, John Chuks Azu, Rosemary Etim Bassey & Ibrahim Haruna