“My message to the Nigerian government is that we should invest more in children. We must fight corruption to the last bit because if there is corruption, we cannot give these children the better tomorrow which they deserve.
“We have laws that favour children, the problem is that we are not implementing and enforce the laws.”
Oba Akanbi also called for support from leaders in the society to support the government in creating children-friendly society.
The Canadian government is seeking a stronger partnership with the Nigerian government to reduce the burden of child marriage in Africa’s most populous nation.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Christopher Thornley, who spoke at a forum in Abuja on the growing international concern about child marriage, pointed out that Nigeria had more cases of child brides in sub-Saharan Africa.
He also explained the commitment of the Canadian government to assisting Nigeria’s efforts at reducing the burden of child marriage.
When the Child Rights Act was passed into law in 2003, many people celebrated it as a law that would finally put the issues of child marriage to rest because it puts the minimum age of marriage at 18.
Almost 13 years after, the burden of child bride is still heavy on Nigeria, as statistics from the Canadian government reveal.
At a photo exhibition by the Canadian High Commission in Abuja, the burden of child marriage was highlight as a global issue, with focus on what could be done to end it.
At the event was a teenager who was a victim of child marriage in Zamfara State, northwest Nigeria.
She dropped out of primary school at 12, the same year she was married off.
This situation is what the Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria said his country was trying to address and reduce the burden on Nigeria.
For the Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, the problem is endemic in some states despite the existing federal laws that protected the child rights.
She, however, assured the Canadian government of Nigeria’s efforts to ensure that states domesticate laws that would protect the girl child rights.
Statistics by the Canadian government reveals that over 15 million girls are married every year before they turn 18, an alarming figure that the Sustainable Development Goals hope to reduce by the year 2030.
The Federal government says it has initiated programmes that will enhance the welfare of young children especially the girls and protect them from any form of molestation.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan disclosed this on Tuesday during a news conference to mark the 2016 International Day of the Girl Child.
Senator Alhassan said the ministry has embarked on advocacy visits and campaigns for the domestication of the Child Rights Act in all the states of the federation.
She also announced that the ministry has sponsored a bill on Gender and Equal Opportunities at the the National Assembly as well as the launching of the Social Protection Programme to assist indigent children to go to school.
The International Day of the Girl Child is a day set aside to draw attention of policy makers on the need to address the challenges girls face.
Nigeria being a member of the United Nations, joined other countries of the world to mark the day which called for creation of more opportunities for girls and raises awareness of the discrimination they face worldwide due to their gender.
The Women Affairs minister who identified age-longed prejudices and cultural stereotypes that are unfavourable to the girl child , added that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is determined to ensure that women take their rightful place in the scheme of affairs in the country.
She reiterated the President’s resolve to ensure the safe return of the abducted Chibok school girls in Borno State.
In line with the theme – “Girls Progress equal to Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement – the minister said attention would be directed to increased data generation and management in planning for the girl child and women in Nigeria.
‘Implement Existing Laws’
Meanwhile some stakeholders have faulted the introduction of new policies and programmes to protect the rights of the girl child. They say why create new policies when existing ones are yet to be fully implemented.
The National Human Rights Commission has stopped the planned marriage of a 40-year-old man to a 13-year-old girl who is a primary 5 pupil of POWA Primary School in Abuja.
The marriage, which was billed to take place on July 24 in Abuja, was halted by the Commission after an investigation.
A statement by the Chief Press Officer of the Commission, said that following a tip off, the Commission interrupted the ceremony and retrieved the minor from the offender’s house and invited all parties involved to the Commission including the groom to be, one Mr. Ibrahim, who had full knowledge that the girl was less than 18 years of age prescribed by Law.
After thorough interrogations, the Commission cited the relevant laws to back its decision to stop the marriage, including Sections 21, 22, 23 of the Child Rights Act 2003 which prohibits child marriage or betrothal, an offence which is punishable by five years imprisonment or 500,000 naira fine.
The Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, Professor Bem Angwe, while referring the matter to the Commissioner of Police, FCT Command for prosecution, also expressed the determination of the Commission to ensure the implementation of the Child Rights Act and its enforcement against all persons irrespective of their status or religious belief.
The Executive Secretary enjoined parents and guardians to be vigilant and ensure that their children and wards are not exposed to early marriage which does not only offend the law but has psychological, social and health implications.
The Nigerian Government has been advised to pay more attention to implementing laws that protect the rights of children in the society, rather than creating new laws.
Erhumwunse Eghosa of the SOS Children’s Village, made this plea during a conversation on Rubbin Minds in commemoration of the International Day Of the Girl Child, where he noted that the issue of protecting the girl child needs to be put on the front burner internationally.
“If you want to develop a nation, or develop the world, you need to invest in the development of children, especially the girl child,” he said.
He explained that by empowering the girl child, 40% of the job of development would have been done, considering their roles in all facets of development, starting from their roles in raising kids.
He highlighted the need to provide social protection, employment, healthcare and education, with emphasis on the implementation of the laws that would ensure that all these are provided.
“It is not just enough for us to pass beautiful laws and policies. What is utmost is how much we implement these laws and how much we encourage the right mechanism that will help us to ensure that these laws and policies are being implemented.”
The condition of the family backgrounds, he noted, is also an integral factor when talking about the rights of the girl child to education as there must be enabling environment for this to happen from the home front.
While Lagos State has taken the lead in protecting children in line with the law, many states are far behind as the Child Rights Act, he said, is still far behind in achieving its purpose because implementation has not been taken seriously.
Eghosa explained that when the focus of families is on trying to fight poverty, it would be hard for them to understand why their children should not engage in activities like hawking.
He advised that Government needs to appreciate the belief that implementing the Child Rights Act would require sensitizing families on why their children should not be on the streets irrespective of their needs.
He added that Government also must do more in creating economic empowerment for its citizens.
Moving forward, he recommended the creation of a database of all Nigerian citizens as this is the foundation of planning for a society. He added that communities should be encouraged to play major roles in making sure that child rights protection is enforced among the people.
The Down Syndrome Foundation, Nigeria has called on Nigerians to pay more attention to those living with the Down Syndrome.
The call was made by the Foundation’s Programmes Director, Amaka Obidi, on Sunday, during Channels Television’s Rubbin Minds where she spoke about the condition and the several efforts of the foundation to support its victims.
The Foundation’s focus has been on providing medical, educational and social support for the children suffering from the condition and also parents who have to cater to their kids in the same condition.
Explaining the condition, Ms Obidi noted that anyone could be at risk of giving birth to children with the Down Syndrome, contrary to the belief that women who give birth at old age are the ones at risk. She added that there had been many cases of it involving young mothers.
On the back of this, she emphasized the need for their to be more awareness among Nigerians about the irreversible condition and how to manage it.
The ‘Save a Life Project’ is one of the initiatives of the foundation, in association with doctors in Nigeria and India. It focuses on helping children with Down Syndrome to get treatment on heart related challenges as they stand a high risk of heart failure.
A Strategy Consultant, Micheal Oloruniwo, who has been part of the foundation to help raise awareness, was also part of the conversation, and he provided more insight into the ways in which the lives of people with Down Syndrome can be improved.
He stated that those who have the condition can also live a wholesome normal life, as long as their friends and families can understand that all they need is special care and support.
According to Oloruniwo, the Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania would be playing host to several people from different parts of the world, who would be aiming to reach the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, starting on Monday, August 18.
Climb For Down Syndrome, as the exercise has been named, is a unique idea created to further raise awareness for the foundation’s target of raising 10million Naira to support its cause.
The group is not unaware of the issue of trust among Nigerians as regards raising funds and Mr Oloruniwo said that their way of ensuring that this is not an issue was to get credible persons and international organisations involved in their programmes.
Ms Obidi added that the need for transparency and accountability has been well thought of, and this informed their culture of using open approaches in their programmes.
The Climb For Down Syndrome, which is expected to take six days, according to Olorunibe, would not be too straineous.
On the issue of support from Government, Ms Obidi noted that while the Lagos State Government has been supportive of the Down Syndrome Foundation and children generally with its implementation of the Child Rights Act, the Federal Government was yet to show interest in helping the category of children.
She revealed that the foundation was in need of its permanent site to accommodate more children, scholarships to help develop the kids’ abilities, as well as policies that would provide an enabling environment for the Down Syndrome kids to live normal lives and be well integrated in the society.
The group is also urging more Nigerians to volunteer their support in the form of service and funding, as they need to increase capacity to accommodate more families who are seeking help for their wards.
Down syndrome (DS) or Down’s syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21. It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability. The average IQ of a young adult with Down syndrome is 50, equivalent to the mental age of an 8- or 9-year-old child, but this varies widely.