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The rising abuse of children in Nigeria

Since the beginning of this year, we have been inundated with stories of sexual abuse of children as young as 7 months old. As I…

Since the beginning of this year, we have been inundated with stories of sexual abuse of children as young as 7 months old. As I wrote this article another case of a month-old girl that was snatched from her mother and gang raped was being reported, while in Lagos we had the case of young boys from one of the secondary schools who attempted to carry out a systematic and obviously well thought out plan to gang rape some girls in the school.

In a recent radio report monitored in Kaduna, it was stated that there were over 130 cases of sexual abuse against children in Katsina state in the month of April 2017 alone. There have been similar stories of other cases in Zamfara, Kebbi and Sokoto states. These are only the cases that have been reported, in many other circumstances, the victims have not reported the abuse. One perpetrator stated that he paid young almajiri boys between N10 and N20 for him to sodomise them. All these are becoming too regular and alarming because we do not hear of the successful prosecution of the perpetrators. 

It brings us to the burning question of what is being done to protect the Nigerian child and if this is enough and if it is not, then what more can we do? Like many countries around the world, Nigeria has signed many of the United Nations covenants to protect the child. UNICEF, in a recent report stated that after the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by the United Nations in 1989, the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRWC). Nigeria adopted both international conventions by signing and ratifying them in 1991 and 2000. These instruments contain ‘a universal set of standards and principles for survival, development, protection and participation of children and recognize children as human beings and subjects of rights’.

However, the process of domestication of these conventions by the states in Nigeria has been slow with 11 states still yet to domesticate the laws. Of these states, only one state, Enugu is outside the northern region with the other states yet to domesticate the laws are Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara. The resistance to the domestication of these conventions is largely cultural and religious. However, there is nothing that requires the wholesale adoption of the Act, with states free to debate and adjust the conventions to fit their particular situations.

What is worrying is that little is being done by most of the states’ (except Lagos and Kano) or federal government, either individually or collectively and they will need to be more proactive in tackling the growing problem. Even where Lagos and Kano have acted, this has been after the fact. We need to put mechanisms in place for the identification of the reasons for the rise in this problem. Or is that increased access to news outlets has allowed us to allowed these stories to be brought closer home?  We need to begin a process of educating our young boys (and girls to report such cases) as a first step to help prevention. As for the older culprits, government needs to ensure that the punishment fits the crime and these punishments must have stiff minimum sentences that will help to deter future occurrences. Women must also be encouraged to come forward and report such cases without fear of being stigmatised in this very culturally sensitive country. Our children, especially our girl child, are our future and we seem to forget this in this male dominated country.

Dr. Bala Liman, Kaduna, [email protected]

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