The Problem Statement
In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Children’s Rights Act of 2003 extends the human rights bestowed to citizens in Nigeria’s 1999 constitution to children.
The bill was first introduced in 2002 but could not pass because of the opposition from the Supreme Council for Sharia.
The act was officially passed into law in 2003 by Former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the Children’s Rights Act 2003, largely because of the media pressure that national stakeholders and international organizations put on the national assembly.
As of 2009, the Child Rights Act was codified into law in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Out of the 36 states in the country, 25 states that have domesticated the Act while 11 states are yet to.
The ACT Solution
In order to enforce the Act, The National Child Rights Implementation Committee was created. Committees were also established for some of the states which have ratified the act.
The committee listed five top priorities for addressing the needs of children establishing safe water supply and sanitation, working on the HIV/AIDs epidemic, creating job opportunities for women so they are better able to take care of the children, providing universal basic education and making the primary health care system better.
A 2010 report notes that the capacity for monitoring and sufficiently implementing the act is low.
Another reason the Child Rights Act proves difficult to enforce is because it contradicts other national laws.
Even though the Child Rights Acts defines a child as anyone under eighteen years old, this conflicts with another Nigerian Law; the Young Person’s Act, which designates a child as an individual below the age of fourteen.
In contrast, The Young Person’s Acts deems individuals ages fourteen to seventeen “young people”.
The definitions created by these two separate laws are in tension with each other and pose issues in matters of interpretation.
Although the provisions within the Child Rights Act should be overruling any other law, the fact that the Child Rights Act is not ratified in all Nigerian States makes it difficult.
This right also aims to solve children’s rights in daily school life and gives children the best chance to lead happy, healthy lives and to be responsible, active citizens.
However, another problem is religious groups may see the Act as an imposition of the west that is contrary to religious or culture.
Nigeria as a signatory to most of the human rights instruments is expected to ensure the effectiveness of the implementation of the relevant provisions of the conventions that guarantee the right to education.
Provision of education in Nigeria, therefore, ought to be a right; and should, therefore, be available and accessible to the Nigerian child as a proof of the protection of the said right, though the implementation of children’s rights to education in Nigeria has a clause.
NIGAC Constructive Position
All children have all these rights, no matter who they are, where they live, what language they speak, what their religion is, what they think, what they look like, if they are a boy or girl, if they have a disability, if they are rich or poor, and no matter who their parents or families are or what their parents or families believe or do.
No child should be treated unfairly for any reason. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children.
All adults should do what is best for children. Governments should make sure children are protected and looked after by their parents, or by other people when this is needed.
Governments should make sure that people and places responsible for looking after children are doing a good job.
It should be mandatory that the child right act should be codified into law in all the 36 states in Nigeria.
Governments must do all they can to make sure that every child in their countries can enjoy all the rights in this Convention.
Governments should let families and communities guide their children so that, as they grow up, they learn to use these rights in the best way. The more children grow, the less guidance they will need.
Every child has the right to be alive. Governments must make sure that children survive and develop in the best possible way.