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Child protection experts have raised concerns on increasing prevalence of child abuse in Nigeria stressing that despite measures to tackle child abuse in the country, children are still made victims of various forms of abuses such as child marriages, sexual violence, abduction of children, molestation, child labor, and neglect, among other forms.
Speaking on the issue, they expressed fears of continued prevalence in the country as the child rights act which seeks to provide and protect the rights of a Nigerian child has not been domesticated in some in some parts of the country.
BDSUNDAY findings shows that laws and policies put into place with the purpose of protecting children from abuse have not been effective for many reasons including poor enforcement mechanisms, poverty, corruption, lack of rehabilitation of sexual offenders, negative attitude of parents, and inefficient judicial processes.
Sharon Oladiji, Child protection specialist, UNICEF, speaking to Businessday said the child rights act which was adopted in Nigeria in 2003 has over the years suffered neglect especially in the northern states.
Only 24 states have so far domesticated the child right act in Nigeria, and according to her, “it’s is disheartening to know that the states yet to domesticate the act often tops the list of child abuse cases recorded in the country. This is a call to all state governments to domesticate and fully implement the child right act”.
Statistics show that Sokoto, Kastina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states are yet to domesticate the act.
Oladiji speaking further noted that the global trend of urbanisation, unplanned population, wrong societal values as well as conflict has taken a severe toll on the average Nigerian child adding that the actions and in-actions of the government and civil society have had greater impact on the rights of the Nigeria child.
She said: “Children totally depend on adults for survival, and their views are rarely heard or considered. They are often the victims of the global trend of urbanisation, unplanned population, wrong societal values amongst others; it is time for us to acknowledge our share responsibility in upholding the rights of the Nigerian child”.
She explained that the different forms of child abuse include early child marriage, physical and sexual violence, children accused with witchcraft, children used for house helps, as well as “Almajiri” amongst others.
Speaking on the early marriage menace, Oladiji lamented that over 40 percent of females in Nigeria are given in marriage before the age of 15 adding that over 44percent married before 18 years of age.
“28 percent of women reportedly experience physical violence at some point since they reached the age of 15, and over 40 percent are given out in marriage before age 15”.
Kolawole Tosimi, coordinator, foundation for Child and Youth protection, Abuja, confirmed to BDSUNDAY that child abuse may continue in Nigeria as there are not effective laws that protect children against abuse and defend their rights after the abuse especially in the northern part of the country.
He said “Child abuse in Nigeria is not new and we fear that it may continue if not properly handled, we do not have effective laws to protect the children against abuse and no laws to render needed service to children when abused”.
Speaking further, Tosimi said that while some states are yet to domesticate the child right act, others are ineffective in implementation, adding that there is need for increased advocacy among traditional rulers, policy makers, and political leaders.
“There is need for a critical understanding of act, most people see the act as an attack on their religion and traditional belief. We need to increase advocacy to policy makers, political and traditional leaders especially in the North”.
“Poor implementation has made most people to lose confidence in the act and Nigeria may not get a standard fight against child abuse in the nearest future”.
Cynthia Egboboh, Abuja.