Fred Itua, Abuja
If you are a parent or guardian living in Abuja, do not take your eyes off your ward if you can. This is because child offenders are on the prowl in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) hunting for vulnerable children to prey on.
Despite the fact that sexual abuse of children is an offence under several sections of chapter 21 of Nigeria’s criminal code, it has not deterred these cradle snatchers from striking. According to a 2015 report of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.
A survey by Positive Action for Treatment Access (PATA), revealed that over 31.4 per cent of girls’ first sexual encounter was rape or forced sex of some kind.
Again, the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), reported that 1,200 girls were raped in 2012 in Rivers State alone. UNICEF said six out of 10 children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18, with a half experiencing physical violence.
In Abuja, the story is not different and 11 child offenders were arrested and may be jailed if convicted.
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), vowed that it would do everything within the law to ensure that all the alleged 11 child abuse offenders are jailed to serve as a deterrent to all real and potential culprits of child abuse.
The Director, FCTA Department of Gender, Dr Agnes Uta Hart, made the vow while parading alleged culprits of child abuse who inflicted varying degrees of injury on their victims in her office in Area 10, Garki, Abuja, recently.
She said the organisation arraigned seven offenders, adding that four more cases of child abuse were being processed for legal action.
She expressed worry over the increase in the abuse of minors in Abuja: “Here in the FCT, we have a sexual and gender based response team, and we have zero tolerance for any form of abuse against any resident, let alone violence on a child. Nobody in the FCT can molest a child and go scot-free.
“The Child Right Act 2003 is very clear on that, every child has the right to life, right to quality education, right to healthcare and other fundamental human rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and we are here to protect the interest of the child.
“This week alone, we have received four cases of child abuse and violence against children and this has been the trend. Presently, we have seven of such cases in the FCT family court and we are going to follow through with all of such cases.”
Some guardians were paraded for allegedly assaulting and inflicting serious injuries on a 10-year-old Precious and 14-year-old Chinenye. Injuries on the two victims were noticed by their teachers who reported the assaults to the FCT Gender Department.
However, a mild drama played out when the victim and the alleged offender, Blessing and 13-year-old Happiness were being interrogated. Blessing denied inserting pepper into Happiness’s private part, while the teenager insisted she was peppered.