By Ignatius Ushie
The world stands at a pivotal moment towards ending violence against children and realising the noble vision of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The impact of violence on every child is immense and long-lasting, but beyond that, violence against children impact mental health, weakens the very foundations of social progress and sustainable development.
In September 2015, the member states of the United Nations, including Nigeria made a commitment to ensure the ending of violence against children remains top most in the hearths of our leaders. In line with this, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed a commitment to end all forms of violence and harmful practices against Nigerian children.
Buhari, made this commitment during a presentation of a 750- word statement presented by the Children’s Parliament on behalf of all Nigerian children at a National Policy Dialogue on Ending Violence Against Children in Nigeria.
The president, who was represented by Vice-President, Yemi Osinbajo decried the increasing cases of violence meted on children, which had affected their development and well-being.
According to him, despite existing laws and policies to end violence against children, the acts was still been perpetrated, which required more commitment to put an end to it. “Recalling our commitment to protect children from abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and violence under Goal 16.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, we remain fully committed to collective action at all levels to end all forms of violence against children”, he said.
The seven-key areas that were adopted and signed by the president to end all violence against children include; continue support and encouragement to adopt the Child Rights Act of 2003 in all states.
Others are; adequate funding to strengthen child protection and social protection systems, universal birth registration, investment in support services that protect children affected by violence.
Also, scale up household economies, strengthening policies and programmes that will improve the well-being and protection of children and their caregivers were part of the commitment by the Fedral government.
“The Government remains committed to implementing the recommendations of its recent convenings on Financing Safe Schools in Nigeria. And ensuring that no child shall be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment, or subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Recognising the need to keep children safe in the digital classrooms and to ensure that every child is free from sexual exploitation and abuse. The government remains committed to enacting appropriate laws and policies relating to cybersecurity, safety and data protection with a view to putting in place a robust Child Online Protection System”, he said.
The President, therefore, appealed for more technical and financial support from development partners towards ending all forms of violence against children and the realisation of the unified objective.
Earlier, speaking on behalf of Nigerian children, the Speaker, National Children’s Parliament, Mr Maisara Abbas demanded an immediate response to the right to security and safety, quality education, health care, amongst others.
Abbas, therefore appealed to the government to promote and implement policies and intervention that will bring protect and respect the rights of children in all areas.
He also, called on the government to also include Children with disabilities, street children and other vulnerable persons in all its programme.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen stressed the need for children and parents to speak out against violence meted on the children to ensure prosecution of perpetrators and end to the practice. “We are partners moving in a train towards ending violence against children in our world. This requires effective and efficient collaborative efforts amongst all key actors”.
According to her, the ministry will continue to confront these issues through policies, legislations and regulations, to create a safe environment for children. “We look forward to strengthened partnership with relevant Stakeholders including Development Partners with the hope to achieve our common goal and our collective dream of ending violence in Nigeria, and the world at large. The child belongs to all and every child’s problem is everyone’s business. Let us all rise up, it is time for action, we must rise up and support our children, they are the future hope of this country”, she said.
Welcoming participants to the dialogue, Permanent Secretary of the Women Affairs, Ambassador. Anthonia Ekpa. PhD represented by Director. Child Development, Jumai Mohamadu to team up with all stakeholders to end violence in Children noting that everyone that has anything to do with children viz; clergy, head teachers, care givers, Civil Society must all come together.
While wishing them a fruitful deliberations, UNICEF Deputy Country Representative to Nigeria, Ms Rushnan Murtaza said violence against children were mostly perpetrated at home and by familiar persons, hence dialogue would restate commitment towards bring an end to it.
Similarly, Dr Majat M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Deputy-Secretary on Violence Against Children, stressed the need for enforcement of law, effective data collection and monitoring to ensure safe and secure environment for children.
Ms Comfort Lamptey, United Nations Country Representative in Nigeria and ECOWAS reiterated the commitment of the organization towards supporting government achieve its mandates on women and children.