Nigerian children will today celebrate the Children’s Day alongside their counterparts across the world. The event is marked annually on May 27, a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) for world leaders and governments to deliberate and take action on issues that affect children. In Nigeria, the day is usually marked with a public holiday, lectures and other social activities centred on children in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja.
Beyond the festivities to commemorate the event, Children’s Day celebration calls for deep reflection on the state of the Nigerian children as well as proffering solutions to issues that affect them. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Unite to reverse the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children.” This calls for a global effort to protect children from the devastating effects of the pandemic, which is currently ravaging so many countries across the world. Without the children, the future of the country is imperiled. They are a bridge between the past and the present as well as the future. It is for this reason that so many countries, especially the developed ones invest so much in their children’s education.
No doubt, the excruciating economic situation in the country, rising insecurity and the ravaging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will generally affect this year’s celebration. Although children are regarded as the future of the country, the condition of Nigerian children is very pathetic. Many of them have in recent times become victims of abduction, kidnapping, sexual abuse and child labour in some parts of the country.
Currently, over 13.5 million Nigerian children are reportedly out of the school. The majority of these children are from the northern parts of the country. Some of them in war-torn North East region are struggling for a living in some of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. Some Nigerian children literally live in the streets as their parents have abandoned them.
Owing to poverty, illiteracy and some harmful cultural practices, some children, particularly the girls, have been forced to early marriages, while others have been raped or subjected to various dehumanising conditions. Some of the boys in war-torn areas have been turned into child-soldiers, while some have been recruited by insurgents, thereby exacerbating the growing insecurity in the land.
However, it is worth pointing out that Nigeria has recorded some commendable moves in improving the rights of the child. For instance, it adopted the Child’s Rights Act in 2003, and gave legal consent to both the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
By adopting these international instruments, Nigeria accepted responsibility to ensure that they are implemented in a uniform and coherent manner. The government also took on the responsibility of discouraging religious, cultural, customary or traditional practices that are inconsistent with the Charter.
Regrettably, such noble efforts have, however, not been comprehensive and enduring as some parts of the country still hide under some cultural norms to undermine the provisions of these laws.
Only 25 of the 36 states in Nigeria have domesticated the Child’s Rights Act. Eleven states, mostly in the North, are yet to domesticate the Act. Children in these states are still subjected to early marriage, female genital mutilation and street begging. Many Nigerian children are also going through harrowing experience in their various homes and communities. The future of these children looks uncertain.
As Children’s Day is being marked today, we enjoin the government to priortise issues that concern children and factor them in the nation’s developmental schemes.
It has become imperative that government at all levels should tackle the identified problems of Nigerian children without any delay. We say this because the neglected children of yesterday are the ones troubling the country today.
Let the government ensure that every Nigerian child, who is of school age, is enrolled in the school system. On no account should any Nigerian child be excluded from the school system. We wish Nigerian children and others a Happy Children’s Day celebration.