It is hardly surprising that a new report by Save the Children, an international non-governmental organization which promotes children’s rights throughout the world, has listed Nigeria among the 10 worse conflict-affected countries. According to the report which covered a period of five years (2013 -2017), over 100,000 children were killed yearly as a result of armed conflicts in those countries alone.
To underscore the enormity of the problem, another research undertaken by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and commissioned by the same Save the Children found that in 2017 alone, 420 million children live in conflict affected areas in the world. The number which constitutes 18 per cent of children’s population worldwide is an upsurge of 30 million from the previous year. Grave violations of children were also found to have risen from under 10,000 in 2010 to over 25,000 in 2017.
This is a disheartening report on the state of insecurity in the world, especially on children, the most vulnerable segment of the world’s population. In fact, women and children constitute the most affected victims in conflict situations.
As a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and the other conflicts in the country, it is not unexpected that Nigeria should be in the unenviable group. Apart from Nigeria, other countries in the group in 2017 include Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali and Somalia.
A common thread that runs across most of the countries listed above are debilitating wars, insurgencies, ethno-religious conflicts, armed banditry and trans-border criminalities.
Since children are the leaders of tomorrow, everything must be done to ensure that they are protected in conflict situations. What happens to children in a country goes a long way to determine the future of that country. Therefore, the governments of the affected nations must put premium on matters that affect children, the future leaders.
We call on the Federal and state governments to make concerted efforts to secure the lives of Nigerian children who are often casualties of the sundry armed conflicts in the country. The Boko Haram insurgency in the North East region of the country is reported to be responsible for the death of over 200,000 persons and over 2 million displaced from their homes and communities. Most of the victims are women and children. Before the insurgency, the country had witnessed armed banditry, ethnic-religious conflicts and kidnappings.
If the spate of these premeditated and reckless killing of children is not stopped, we run the risk of having a gerontocratic society in no distant future. Even if the youths and children constitute the bulk of the nation’s population at present (61 per cent), there is no certitude that the country would continue to keep this advantage at the rate we are losing our children’s population to these unwarranted killings.
What the country does to stem this ugly trend goes a long way in determining what accent we place on the future of our society. The Child Rights Act is one law that has been made by the international community to bring to the fore matters that affect the children and how to prioritise them. In Nigeria, the law has been domesticated by the Federal Government, but some states are yet to replicate it. They should now do so as a matter of utmost urgency, as the continued non-domestication of the law by some of these states is completely unacceptable and a direct affront on the universal goals espoused in the legislation.
Therefore, all tiers of government must be seen to promote child welfare and the organisations that support them. Similarly, other relevant stakeholders must work together for the survival of Nigerian children.