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STOP RAPE TAKE ACTION ; NOT NOI SE

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
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As far back as three decades ago, my Father Mazi Cyprian Osonduagwuike Okorieocha Onwubiko gave me a little bit of civic education laced massively with philosophy and logic.

He narrated to me what he considered as the shortfall and deliberate pitfall of politics played by the species of human beings who occupy public offices in Nigeria and my Dad then concluded by affirming that in Nigeria,noise speaks louder than action.

Almost three Years after my great father moved on to be with our Maker, his words of wisdom has provided the motivation for me to make some quick remarks on the sudden show of interest by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and their counterparts in the Federal House of Representatives on the larger issues around the sexual molestation and violations of the girl childen by thousands of morally depraved adults whose sexual appetites are as irrationally glutinous and primitive and wantonly uncultured as that of the he-goats.

There is no gainsaying the fact that from Sokoto to Katsina up to Lagos, Cross River State and virtually from every nooks and crannies of Nigeria comes constant flow of graphic stories of violent sexual attacks of Children as young as one by depraved male adults who end up going free from the laws made against such brutal violation of the sexuality rights of these Children. There are cases of Fathers sexually abusing their young Children but sadly the police seems to be overwhelmed because of the sheer numbers of these abuses.

In Katsina state the other day came a report of the gang rape of a one- year old baby girl by four adult males who snatched the baby from the Mother who is only twenty four year old.

Stories abound of Children of school age who aren't enrolled in schools because of poverty but are left to roam about in the streets either hawking or begging for alms. In Kano state alone there are over two million poverty stricken children roaming around in the streets begging for alms and constituting nuisance. Sadly the Child Rights Act has yet to be adopted and domesticated by the 36 states of the Federation because some of these States are busy hiding under religious sentiments to kick against provisions of this Child Rights Act which are simply adopted from a global Child Rights Laws of the United Nations. In some of the States with governors masquerading as Islamic purists, and thereby kick against certain provisions of tge Child Rights Act, their Children and family members are hibernating in the most advanced Western Societies in Western Europe, America and Canada whereby the Rights of Children are sacrosanct but here they are arguing against tge domestication of the Child Rights Act that would benefit the Children of millions of the rural and urban poor. This is hypocrisy at it's best.

The beauty of the Child Rights Act is that amongst its many edifying provisions, in Sections 21-40 of the Child Rights Act provisions were inserted which protects Children against discriminatory, harmful and exploitative practices.

"Poverty plays a crucial role in the supply chain of human trafficking. This means that human trafficking must be addressed both at the level of basic causes, including issues related to economic performance, social protection of families and poverty eradication, at the levels of intermediate and immediate causes, including the legal and moral imperative, to combat human traffickers through effective law enforcement, enlightenmentof the public, possible provisions of alternatives to risky migration and care and protection for victims"( see 'communication policy and strategy, abridged version' of NAPTIP).

The members of the National Assembly are busy generating serious media noise pretending to be defenders of the Child Rights Act.

The Senators have since the beginning of this Week paid pretentious and hypocritical attention to the spate of rape and sexual violations of Children and stated what they regarded as readiness of the red chamber to conduct what they considered as public hearing sessions to find solutions to this menace.

Another topical issue that has occupied the attention of these Senators this week is on the need to move for the domestication of the Child Rights Act by the entire 36 States of the Federation.

The Senators said the nearness of the Children's Day celebration of this year informed this unusually high profile interest on these vital areas of our national life.

The Senate said the call for domestication of the Child Rights Act was a spirited move to safeguard the rights and secure the future of the Nigerian child.

Senate said they hope to achieve this through the domestication and implementation of the Child Rights Act.

The Senate therefore asks Committee on Women Affairs to liaise with Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to ensure the child right Act is fully domesticated.

The Senate resolution follows a motion from Senator Binta Masi Garba, a Woman representing Adamawa North.

The Child Rights Act it would be recalled defines a new child protective system; allowing children opportunities to participate in matters that concerns their rights and welfare.

The document which was enacted in 2003 has been adopted and is currently implemented in Twenty-three states including the Federal Capital Territory FCT.

But in the media statement which at best could be seen as mere propaganda the Senate wants the remaining thirteen states to immediately enact it.

The motion also requests full implementation of the Universal Basic Education Act {2004}; which makes the education of the Nigeria child free, compulsory and enforceable right with penalties for parents who default.

Nigeria has a population of about 10.5 million out-of-school children with more than 9 million of them in the North of the country. This statistics brandished by the Senate is however not the latest because the last time i checked nearly three years ago this was the same figure bandied by the Federal Ministry of Education quoting the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF).

Three years ago the then minister of state for Education Mr. Nyesom Wike who today is the governor of Rivers state bandied this same figure in a document his officials prepared on the Almajiris education system.

But in the motion raised with old statistical data, the Senate stated that it recognises "that a proper system of education and good health care are indispensable in making the Nigerian Child relevant in the global scheme of things".

But nevertheless these Senators admitted that a major challenge is how to address social ills such as child labour, child street hawking, drug addiction. Now, a good observer will immediately wonder why the National Assembly has never worked in the real sense of it to ensure the enforcement of laws that will promote fair redistribution of national wealth.

As usual the Senators made the loudest noise on these thematic areas but in reality they may do nothing to actualise these noble goals.

For one of the most notorious Senatorial noisemakers at the moment Mr.Dino Melaye, this year's children's day calls more for sober reflection than celebration and a call for parents to train their children.

"We need to train and retrain our children if we want a better society built on values, built on capacity gotten from indoctrination from parents who must live exemplary lives", he said.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu who was a governor in Nasarawa but failed to enforce the Child Rights Act which was domesticated in 2005 but who now represents Nasarawa West heaped the blame squarely on the current generation of parents who he says have "bargained for the failure of their children".

The noisy Senate called on governments at all levels to address the "social evils" currently bedeviling children in the country.

Now this is where my Father's words of wisdom comes in on the penchant of Nigerian politicians for noise making rather than pay attention to enforcement of laws.

This Senate of the eight session is made up of over 35 % or higher of former state governors from different zones of the Country.

These persons now working as Senators had the opportunities of their lives to put into action this new found love for Child Rights Act but most of them were much more concerned about the pecuniary benefits of their offices and were intensely engaged in pursuing cosmetic policies and white elephant projects just so they can maximise the full benefits of becoming super billionaires to enable them buy their ways into the Senate which they now view as their retirement jobs.

This same Senate harbours a former governor of Zamfara State Sani Yerima who allegedly ferried the 14 year old daughter of his Egyptian driver to Abuja whereby he married her even when the Child Rights Act passed into law when he was already a Senator was enforceable in Federal Capital Territory and all the law enforcement agencies and the office of the Federal Attorney General and Minister of Justice maintained sealed lips.

These same Senators most of whom as governors did practically nothing to enforce the Universal Basic education Act which provides for compulsory and free Education for all Nigerian Children up until Senior Secondary schools are the same persons mouthing their so-called passion for the education of the Nigerian Children.

These are the same Senators who as top political office holders in the last two years stood by and let the officials of the Ministries of Education and Health to mismanage funds meant for the construction and maintenance of Primary health care facilities and educational facilities.

These same Senators have all sponsored their Children to attend expensive schools in different Western European nations but have watched as governors destroy public Educational institutions that would have benefitted the Children of the poor.

These same Senators were in the National Assembly when few months back the Emir of Katsina reportedly took a 14-year old Christian female Child and got her converted and married off against the Parent's will and the laws of the land.

Wonders shall never end in Nigeria!
The Senators also have some noisy neighbours in the other legislative chamber known as the Federal House of Representatives or the lower legislative chamber.

The lower legislative chamber is not left behind in this bonanza of empty rhetorical affirmations on the necessity for protecting Child Rights of Nigerian youngsters.

Specifically, on the eve of this Year's Children and youth Day, the House of Representatives said it will continue to work towards building a society that will be conducive for the overall growth and development of the Nigerian child.

In a press statement signed by the special adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Turaki Hassan, to mark the 2017 Children's Day, the Speaker Mr. Yakubu Dogara a lawyer maintained that issues concerning the welfare of children, especially those of the poor and vulnerable in the society, are top priority to the legislature.

Dogara stated that it is in line with this that the House supports free basic education for all Nigerian children, as it has the potential to unlock their ties to poverty and open a new vista of opportunities to them to generate prosperity for themselves, their families, the society and the nation at large.

"For a society to develop, the young children must be given an avenue to express themselves and explore their potentials to the fullest. The most veritable, most effective tool for this is education. Education is the key to breaking the chains of poverty and opening opportunities to prosperity in all spheres of human endeavour," the Speaker noted.

The Speaker urged states which are yet to domesticate the Child Rights Act to do in order to halt the spate of unwarranted crimes against children as well as upholding their rights. These are all empty talks.

Where was this Speaker when Nigerian youngsters in their hundreds perished on the High seas off the Coast of the lawless Libya in the dangerous Mediterranean sea?

For once can these noisy legislators just concentrate on making quality laws and undertake bribes- free oversight funtions to ensure strict compliance to the Principles of transparency and accountability by officials of the federal ministries and agencies of the National government? Let the National Assembly cut off 35 % off their juicy salaries and allowances and donate same to community based organisations and faith bases organisations in their constituencies equitably for the purposes of the educational and economic empowerment of millions of disadvantaged children. Let the National Assembly unbundle the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and restructure the place to be staffed by competent professionals who would vigourously ensure the enforcement of the Child Rights Act and other Children Friendly laws. Let the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly amend the relevant provisions of the Criminal and Penal Code and indeed the administration of Criminal justice Act to spell out punitive sentences for cases of sexual violations of Children and youngsters by adults. Let the National Assembly provide effective leadership for the Police force so as to train specialists who would drive the process of eradication of rapes and sexual violations and molestation of the Nigerian Children. Let the National open a national data bank of rapists so these depraved persons are known and restricted from working or living in proximity to Schools where youngsters attend.

These practical steps should be adopted rather than embark on the yearly rituals of sermonisations by top political office holders. Action, not noise.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.con; [email protected]

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Emmanuel Onwubiko and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."