In many developing countries, including Nigeria, the rights of children are violated daily and almost with impunity, with inadequate judicial systems or institutions to seek redress, figures from the Organisation for World Peace show.
In a similar report, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) noted that six out of every ten children in Nigeria experience some form of violence, and one in four girls and ten percent of boys have been victims of sexual violence.
The UNICEF report also noted that with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa.
The prevalence of child rights violations in the country has been widely reported, with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) noting that it received over 200,000 petitions bordering on child rights violations in 2020.
To guarantee the rights of all children, Africa’s most populous nation adopted the Child Rights Act (CRA) in 2003. That move was in line with the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
According to the convention, children’s rights include the right to family life, play and recreation, as well as health, and education. It also entails an adequate standard of living and being protected from abuse and harm.
The CRA provides for the protection of children against discriminatory, harmful and exploitative practices.
However, till date, not all the 36 states that make up Nigeria have domesticated the law.
In its response to the slow pace at which states in the country were domesticating the CRA, YouthHubAfrica (YHA), with support from Malala Fund, launched the Child Right Advocacy Project (CRIBAP) in 2017.
The major goal of the project, according to the organisation, was to ensure the domestication of the law in Kebbi, Sokoto, Kano and Kaduna states.
Review of Literature
Several studies have been conducted to understand the importance of CRA in a society where child rights are violated.
A 2004 study by Innocent Chukwuma, E.E.O Alemika, Donika Lafratta, Daniel Messerli, and Jarmila Souckova noted that laws affecting children continue to be scattered in different legislation. The study, titled Rights of the Child in Nigeria, recommended full compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Rights Act of 2003.
Also, the Child Rights Manual, a 2013 research by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) and UNICEF, called for state laws that are inimical to the rights of the child to be amended or annulled to conform to the CRA.
Another study, this time by Georgy Obiechina, found that the implementation and enforcement of the CRA in the states of the federation was slowly functional.
The 2014 research, titled Violation of Childs Rights in Nigeria: Implications for Child Health, recommended that communities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) embark on programmes on child’s rights.
In their 2015 research, titled Child Abuse: The Child’s Rights Act and Sustainable Development in Nigeria, Wahab Ojebiyi and Olubunmi Ashimolowo recommended that the tenets of the CRA be taught to all Nigerians, especially the primary caregivers for children, through raising awareness of the existence of the law and organising relevant training programmes in Africa.
Also, in their 2016 study, titled Child Abuse In Nigeria: Dimension, Reasons For Its Persistence and Probable, Olaitan Olusegun and Amos Idowu, who discovered that lack of implementation of the CRA had led to the continued abuse of children in the country, urged all state legislatures in the country to pass the bill seeking the protection of child rights.
Moreover, the Child Trafficking and Rights Violations: Examination of Child Protection under International and Nigeria Legal Provisions study, conducted by Ibe Ifeakandu, noted the lack of political will by government and other stakeholders to fully implement the child’s rights law.
The 2019 study called on government and other stakeholders to demonstrate strong political will in protecting children through the instrument of rights enforcement.
Furthermore, a 2020 study by David Nwogbo posited that the non-implementation of the CRA undermines the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
Titled Child Rights And The Implementation Of The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria, the study noted that the worsening situation in the health, education and the social welfare sectors had severely impacted the basic rights of children in the country.
With regard to stakeholder engagement, YouthHubAfrica said it partnered with other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the aforementioned states of interest. According to the organisation, correspondence with government officials, communication and interaction with religious and traditional leaders were also part of the activities that contributed to the project.
Using short video interviews and documentaries, the NGO also pushed its campaign with the involvement of stakeholders who share their thoughts as well as capture moments and activities during the project.
With hashtag #ChildRightsNG on social media, YouthHubAfrica created awareness on the fact that some states had not domesticated the CRA as well as the impact on children.
Through a media advocacy fellowship, the organisation conducted training for selected journalists from print, radio, television and online media. The journalists, it was gathered, were empowered to create awareness for the domestication and enforcement of the CRA.
‘This project was planned with the media playing an active role. Since the start of the project, we have had about 50 journalists as a part of the CRIBAP-Media Advocacy Fellowship’, the organisation’s Communications Officer, Ejura Adama, told Development Diaries.
As a result of the fellowship, over 40 news items, jingles, blog posts, newspaper reports, and features were created to propel conversations around the domestication of the CRA.
YouthHubAfrica also developed policy briefs to influence the legislative and executive arms of state governments towards passing and assenting to the child rights bills.
As earlier noted, the major goal of YouthHubAfrica’s CRIBAP advocacy was to ensure the domestication of the CRA in Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Sokoto states.
That goal has so far been achieved in Kaduna and Sokoto. Kaduna State adopted the law in April 2018, while Sokoto State took the same action in November 2021.
In Kebbi State, however, Governor Abubakar Bagudu has yet to assent to the bill, which was passed by the Kebbi State House of Assembly in October 2021; and in Kano State, the majority leader of the House of Assembly, Labaran Abdul Madari, said in December 2021 that the bill had passed the second reading.
Madari told journalists in Kano, the state capital, that the house committee on women affairs would engage Islamic scholars and other stakeholders in order to have a bill that would reflect the culture and traditions of the people of the state.
It is understood that the environments in which advocacies and social programmes operate are rarely stagnant. What then has YouthHubAfrica learnt in the course of implementing this project?
‘At the initial point, engaging stakeholders – government officials, community leaders, religious and traditional leaders – was quite tasking’, Adama noted.
‘However, with the efforts of the coalition members, we were able to gain momentum through frequent and deliberate correspondence.
‘Working with various state parastatals such as the state Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Women Affairs, the legislative and executive arms of the state governments made the project a success, despite the hurdles at the initial point’.
There are other projects in Nigeria that also engage in advocacy for the adoption of the CRA across board in equally innovative ways.
For instance, the Niger Delta Child Rights Watch (NDCRW) project, launched in 2011 by Stepping Stones Nigeria, has provided support to a range of advocacy activities involving children, parents, communities, government and civil society.
The project brought about important achievements, including the first prosecution of a child abuse case at a family court in Cross River State, south-south Nigeria.
As for YouthHubAfrica’s CRIBAP – using digital media, media advocacy fellowship, short videos, and policy briefs – it has achieved its goal in two states, with the other two working towards domesticating the law.
‘Every child deserves to be protected. The government and every citizen should ensure Nigerian children enjoy safe and quality basic education, quality health care, and a safe environment. One way to ensure this is through the domestication of the Child Rights Act’, Adama added.
However, recent media reports of child rights violation in some states that have adopted the law, including Lagos State, suggest that implementation/enforcement of the law in Nigeria still leaves a lot to be desired.
Contact of the organisation
Youth Foundation for Development, Education and Leadership (YouthHubAfrica)
26 Massenya St, Off Cotonue Street, Wuse Zone 6, Abuja
Phone: 0909 764 4444
Photo sources: YouthHubAfrica, UNICEF