Although the theme of the 2017 edition of Children’s Day was “Child Protection and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Issues and Opportunities,” half of Nigerian children sadly still experience physical violence and the shameful phenomenon is prevalent across the 36 states of Nigeria.
Evidence from 2011 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) shows that in Nigeria, 91 percent of children age 2-14 years have been subjected to at least one form of psychological or physical punishment by their mothers/caretakers or other household members. More importantly, 34 percent of children were subjected to severe physical punishment. On the other hand, 61 percent of mothers/caretakers believed that children should be physically disciplined. Also, media reports state that the findings of the 2014 Nigeria violence against children survey conducted by the National Population Commission with the support of the United Centres for Disease Control and UNICEF, show that approximately six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence.
The above statistics are worrisome given the fact that on November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Conventionon the Rights of the Child (CRC), while in July 1990, the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRWC), which Nigeria also signed and subsequently ratified on July 23, 2003. The uniqueness of the African Charter is that it enjoins State Parties to embrace, not only the rights of the child, but als
o the responsibilities of the child. Nigeria enacted the principles in these international instruments into law on July 31, 2003 as the Child’s Rights Act (CRA), 2003. However, having been enacted at the national level, the states are expected to formally adopt and adapt the Act for domestication as state laws because issues of child rights protection are on the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, giving states responsibility and jurisdiction to make laws relevant to their specific situations.
State laws inimical to the rights of the child are also to be amended or annulled as may be required, to conform to the Act and to the CRC. Notwithstanding, available data show that the Child Rights Act 2003 has been promulgated into law in 24 states: Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa, Kwara, Lagos, Nassarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Niger, Bayelsa, Kogi and Taraba. Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara do not yet have laws conforming with the Child Rights Act 2003. This means that millions of children in 12 states in Nigeria still do not have the appropriate legal framework for the protection of their rights. As well, millions of other children in states that have passed the law are not being cared for, as they should because the laws have not been fully implemented.