Children's Day: Plight of Nigerian child—By Emmanuel Ajibulu

By Emmanuel Ajibulu
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The 1954 resolution of the United Nations over child rights related issues has by and large catered for the welfare of the children worldwide, both in terms of promotion and protection. This development has consequently, afforded Nigeria to join the League of Nations in marking the Children's Day. Every year the celebration of Children's Day provides an opportunity for reflection on the conditions of Nigerian children. The usual story repeatedly has been one of lamentation. The plight of the Nigerian Child is regrettable, and ultimately the non implementation of the Child Rights Act and the benefits therein.

Children's Day in Nigeria is seemingly reserved as public holiday for children, and some children engage in lively activities which are considered as part of the characteristics of the day. A number of children go to various stadia to actively participate in parades and marches and listen to speeches of various leaders. In some cases, there are varieties of parties to choose from, with lots of food, drinks, merriments, dancing as well as games, as the case may be.

But in a real sense what can Nigerian children make of the Children's Day? It is important to state that most-member states of the UN are signatories to the convention; however, the basic rights enunciated in this convention are still being violated with impunity in these countries that have adopted the convention. This is because children are still flagrantly being abused and neglected both at the family, community and governmental levels. Apart from being a signatory to the convention on the rights of the child, it is apparent that Nigeria has demonstrated the convention in the Child Rights Act under President Yar'Adua, which the National Assembly passed after much prevarication occasioned by opposition to its passage by some assembly members. Despite the UN convention on the Rights of the child and the Child Rights Act, it is astonishing that the rights of the children of Nigeria, to a large extent are still being violated at the family, community, state and federal levels respectively.

For example, such basic rights as the right to education, healthcare, protection from child labour, trafficking, sexual and other forms of exploitation and drug abuse, right to rest and leisure, play and recreation, right to decent standards of living, right to protection from abuse and neglect, protection from illicit transfer and illegal adoption, right to survival and development and the right to non-discrimination are scarcely respected or enforced. In diverse forms, children are being discriminated against. In some states of the country, discriminatory school fees are being charged. While in some other states, children from some parts of the country are not admitted, all based on quota system, ethnicity or religion. In this ugly scenario, where is the one Nigeria we often preach?

Although, it is good to know that few states have domesticated the Child Rights Act, while some states, citing religious and traditional reasons have refused to enact the law. We make bold to say that our children are yet to feel the effects of the Child Rights Law, or of a functional Child Rights Policy. And we blame government for failing in its duty. In April 2008, Nigeria modest first lady, Mrs. Turai Yar'Adua, launched the state chapters of the Nigerian Girls' Education Initiative (NGEI). This is a United Nations idea to enable the girl-child achieve her fullest creative and productive capacities. A worthy step but this must not go in the typical Nigerian syndrome or factor, and making it becoming an abandoned initiative. Its implementation must be sustained and carefully monitored for the good of Nigerian children.

For many Nigerian children, children's day is just a day like any other day this is because such children are living below poverty line while struggling to make enough money to feed themselves and often, other members of their families. Some children (mostly children of elementary school age) live on the streets doing menial jobs for survival, some face the risk of being sold and trafficked, some are being abused, maltreated and exploited, some are sick with no access to healthcare, some have no clean water or electricity. In other words, they suffer all days. It makes no difference to them because of hardship as well as abject poverty and the holiday is nothing to them because they don't even attend school.

Another disheartening thing is that over the years the Nigerian system has exposed an average Nigerian child to corruption, violence, electoral malpractice which out of their (children) naive nature has been considered as a normal way of life or as part of survival tactics.

In the celebration of this year's Children's day (May 27), the Nigerian government at all levels should embrace virile, meaningful and purposeful plans for Nigerian children. They should chart a new course for developmental plans, and such developmental plans should cut across the three tiers of government - local, state and federal and also embrace the full implementation of the Child Rights Act. In addition, all our parliamentarians from the length and breadth of the federation should contribute actively towards the enhancement of the rights of Nigerian children so that their hopes may not be shattered and they can in-turn become true leaders of tomorrow and doing the nation proud in every facet of human endeavours. May God bless Nigeria!

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