A White Elephant Called Child Rights Act, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

A lesson man is taught by birds is that they take care of those that cannot fly without the thought of a reward (Veda). Although Nigeria followed other nations to sign the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, we did so only in body and not in spirit. That is why when you look around, you see that children in this country have no rights as human beings and that is why their needs for special care and protection are largely ignored.

Government went through the process of domesticating the ratified convention with the promulgation of the “Child Rights Act” and states’ legislatures are at the various stages of enacting their own versions but the important take-away from it all is that the country is just playing to the international gallery; there is no serious effort to make children safer through the protection and realization of their own rights.

I scanned newspaper editions for the last two weeks and was shocked by discovery of the ironic times in which we live. Our leaders say one thing and do the direct opposite!

In its last week’s edition, the Hausa language newspaper, Aminiya published by the Abuja-based Media Trust reported an incident in Dan Amarya village in Danja Local Government Area of Katsina State where the local ruler issued a proclamation to the effect that no child should be born out of wedlock in his domain. This has led to an alarming consequence. A divorcee, now a commercial sex worker, identified as Hindatu Umar, confessed to the police that she and an accomplice, Binta Sha’ibu, fed her baby boy rat poison that killed the child to avoid sanctions by the native ruler.

Under what laws could a ruler make such a proclamation, in opposition to the Child Rights Act and above all, the constitution of Nigeria which sanctions the right to life?

When the late singer Fela Anikulapo Kuti crooned in the 70s “Authority Killing, Authority Stealing,” who knew that he was talking about the present Plateau State government? An Abuja FM radio station, Love FM in its popular programme, rendered in pidgin, “Berekete” narrated the government-induced suicide committed by a school teacher who hanged himself following the failure of the Plateau State government to pay him salary for the upkeep of the family.

Following the unbroken teachers strike in the state for upward of seven months and the refusal of government to pay salaries, the late teacher confessed before a local judge that he stole a goat for which he was caught out of desperation to buy food and drugs for his children. When the compassionate judge allowed the man to go home on bail, he hanged himself to a tree and was found dead because he could not live with the shame of being a thief.

Only last week, two different parents in the same Plateau State confessed to killing their own daughters in separate incidents.

The first of the two in Bokkos Local Government Area, confessed to the police that a fortune teller informed him that to rid himself of poverty and therefore become rich, he needed to produce the tongue of his first child. The man went home, found his little daughter asleep while the mother was in the kitchen and pressed a pillow over the face of the girl thereby suffocating her. Just as she died of asphyxiation, the mother came in and he explained to her that a witch doctor was waiting for him to deliver the girl’s tongue so that the family would be made rich. The wife broke down and started crying and this got the attention of neighbours who came around. The man was handed over to the police. Commenting on this incident, the state’s police commissioner Chris Olakpe, warned that “money cannot be gotten from human parts. It has to be through hard work and dedication to legitimate acts”.

The second man, in his own confession, said that he came home to find his bed wet. He was angered by the fact that his two-year old daughter urinated on his bed so he subjected the little girl to severe beating. Following this, the girl bled profusely from her nose and died as a consequence.

In its last week’s edition, another Abuja Hausa newspaper, Rariya, reported that the ancient practice of killing twins had returned to the Federal Capital Territory, FCTA, warranting the setting up of committee by the Minister of State, Jumoke Akinjide to find ways of ending the barbaric cultural practice. The committee is chaired by the Chairman of Kuje Area Council, Isyaku Tete.

Leadership Hausa for its part reported an incident in Malam-Madori local government area of Jigawa State where an angry father beat his 18-year old son with a stick. The secondary school boy bled profusely from a broken head and died on reaching the hospital.

All across the world, not just Nigeria, all cultures are struggling to rid themselves of bad practices such as those that undermine family and community values so the idea is not to show one culture as being superior to others. Let he who is without blemish be the first to be stoned. What others do, and we are falling short of doing here, is that there are historic initiatives to enlighten and educate people against abhorrent practices as those illustrated above. A vigorous Child Rights Policy should aim to stop this regression into ancient and barbaric practices.

While it is often the case that our security agencies would cite concurrent challenges such as the Boko Haram insurgency, the continuing armed robbery and kidnapping as constraints that distract them from issues in public order, agencies of government such as the Ministries of Information, Culture, Tourism and as well as agencies like the National Orientation Agency, NOA and Radio Nigeria have no such excuse to give for failing in their duty in this regard. They dwell so much on the rhetoric of transformation, which in today’s politics is nothing short of Dr. Jonathan’s re-election campaign, instead of working to transform the country through value re-orientation.

Communal riots, savage and cruel acts are making big inroads into our towns and villages because the vested interests of our rulers will not allow government agencies dwell on their primary duty of public education. But without education and enlightenment, life-changing acts of parliament such as the Child Rights Act will remain what they are –white elephants.



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