Sadly, the nation’s duty-bearers still complain about the situation of Nigerian children rather than giving them good news! Given that the nation began marking Children’s Day on May 27, 1964, 58 years ago, this is especially awful. Even though the Child Rights Act of 2003 (CRA 2003) was passed in Nigeria nearly two decades ago and 58 years after the Declaration on the Rights of the Child was adopted, the life and welfare of the average child in that country leave much to be desired, as was evident during the country’s celebration of Children’s Day in 2022. On that occasion, President Muhammadu Buhari deftly acknowledged that Nigerian children do not fully enjoy their rights and that they deserve the best and a safe country where they can develop, make friends, interact, and travel without restriction in addition to becoming successful leaders in various fields of endeavour. The president correctly identified the issue.
Because 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 ratified, in July 1990, and the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on November 20, 1989, it is obvious that Nigerian children are endangered species, which is at odds with the spirit of the various instruments and meetings held on child protection. The Child’s Rights Act (CRA), 2003, which was passed by Nigeria on July 31, 2003, made the ideas included in these international agreements legal.
The Children’s Rights Act of 2003 (CRA 2003) unifies all laws that address the protection and upbringing of children in Nigeria and contains both their rights and obligations. Child Survival, Development, Protection, and Participation were the four basic areas under which the CRA 2003 classified children’s problems (CSDPP). Protection against physical, psychological, or moral harm and children’s right to special protection in the context of war or forced migration, as with the case of children in IDP camps, are requirements for survival. Development also requires the provision of recreational facilities and affordable education, as well as good nutrition and health care systems to reduce child mortality and morbidity.
The CSDPP situation in Nigeria demonstrates that the finest Nigeria has to offer is still far from children, making it clear that the CRA 2003 is little more than a pretty face on paper. Therefore, even though it is true that children are a country’s future, sadly in Nigeria, that future is steadily taking fatal blows: Schools are closed due to insecurity, education is expensive where it is offered, parents are unable to support their children due to poverty, the school curriculum is horrified by policy swerves and lack of alignment with employment realities, and there are no jobs available after a rigorous education.
As a result of their continued lack of access to basic healthcare, proper nutrition, and quality education, millions of Nigerian children—including those affected by conflict—are actually being denied their rights. Children living on the streets, those whose births were unregistered or who lacked legal identification, those who are most impacted by environmental degradation, pollution, and the effects of climate change, such as the Niger Delta region, and children in the context of migration, in particular, are among those who are discriminated against or living in precarious situations of vulnerability like conflict and humanitarian emergencies and are in IDP camps.
Once more, children, especially the most defenceless ones, are at risk and often the victims and survivors of abuse, exploitation, and violence (sexual, physical, and emotional). Rape, child marriage, child labour, lack of birth registration, child trafficking, victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and children on the move, especially in times of crisis, are the most obvious manifestations. Others include drug exposure and use, as well as cult involvement brought on by negligent parenting.
Children in Nigeria often receive a holiday on May 27, which is celebrated as Children’s Day, and are required to take part in a number of social activities that are centred on them. However, participation is merely tokenistic. They are given the day off from school, and the majority of them congregate at stadiums to remember the occasion. Occasionally, these gatherings are sponsored by businesses, which may use them afterwards to nag parents into purchasing their goods.
On that day, certain government representatives and media organisations honour young kids by giving them leadership chances. Some radio and television stations do this by allowing young broadcasters host their shows during the morning hours. The National Children’s Parliament, which was established in 2000, is another instance of participation. The goal is to prepare young people for leadership roles by providing them with a forum to engage in national development. Additionally, it provides kids a voice and instils in them the importance of discussion and group participation, preparing them for leadership responsibilities. The state counterpart exists in some states, but not all of them. Even where they do exist, it seems that they don’t function very well.
Despite the introduction of the Child Rights Act in 2003, the depressing image of Nigerian children’s suffering demonstrates that a number of problems still affect Nigerian children. All things considered, because Nigerian children are not receiving enough attention, the finest Nigeria has to offer is still far away from them at this time.
Every moral rule, law, and principle is violated by the suffering of Nigerian children. It brutally disproves the age-old notion that viewing the world through the eyes of a child will allow you to see it as it truly is. Therefore, it is unacceptable if children be denied their right to Survival, Development, Protection, and Participation (SDPP) and that our sense of moral outrage and decency are not aroused by this. This is the majority’s tragedy, which exemplifies the mockery of social justice, the duty bearers’ waning devotion, and the display of rudderless leadership with regard to the situation of the Nigerian kid.