Plea for national emergency on welfare of the Nigerian child

Posted by News Express | 23 November 2019 | 585 times

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On instinct or by impulse, the heading of this write-up suggests that due to terrorism, high crime rate, mass killings and unprecedented rate of poverty, the well-being of babies is not guaranteed in Nigeria.

If you agree with the above, you may not be too far from the truth. But there are still other truths that are not embodied in all of the above notorious indices mentioned in the introduction of this piece. However, what I set out to write is on a much bigger scale than what the beginning premise of this piece suggests.

To begin with, Nigeria has in the last one year recorded unprecedented negative indices regarding human development, with the most disturbing dimension showing that Nigeria now has over 90 million citizens that are absolutely poor, thus becoming the poverty capital of the world. Nigeria has also seen a negative rating as one of the worst places for children.

President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to respond by creating a bureaucratic behemoth known as ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. He got it all screwed up, though. Nigerian bureaucrats and politicians often create offices whenever issues that affect citizens become notorious and complex, but the solution is not in creating jobs for politicians but to put the existing institutional frameworks to efficient use to maximise results that will serve the greatest good of the greatest number of citizens. This trend is a stranger to Nigerian political class.

Because of this organised confusion of creating new offices instead of making use of existing agencies to tackle the emerging human development challenges, it is to be noted that few months back, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said that with 13.2 million, Nigeria now has the highest number of out-of-school children on Planet Earth. Imagine such a colossal waste of young minds, even amidst the existence of several implementing agencies that ought to address this major fault-line in educational planning and implementation in Nigeria, at all levels of government.

That notwithstanding, what the UNICEF told us is the home truth: that more than 13 million Nigerian children are now out of school.

Nigeria now has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.

In a story published by the Voice of America, the UN agency said its latest survey “indicates that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world.”

UNICEF states that most of the affected children are in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, “where terrorists have disrupted academic activities.”

Boko Haram has been waging a war against the Nigerian state since 2009. The terrorist sect has displaced millions and killed more than 50,000 people in Nigeria since the insurgency commenced. The economy is adversely affected.

Education psychologist, Mayowa Adegbile, told VOA that increasing numbers of out-of-school children in Nigeria adversely affects the nation’s economy.

“Sixty per cent of that population are girls only, and you know when you bring it back home, every girl becomes a mother or a woman who would in turn take care of other children. And for a woman who goes to school, it has a ripple effect, an economical ripple effect.

“When she goes to school, she has education, she gets a job, even if she doesn't have a job... even if it's just basic secondary school education, she can communicate basic English and Mathematics,” Adegbile said.

Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, UNICEF also found that some cultural beliefs and practices also play significant role in keeping children of school age in Nigeria out of the classrooms.

“Nigeria's budgetary spending on education is not enough to quell the widening gap - only seven per cent of Nigeria's $24 billion 2018 budget is earmarked for education.

“And so far, there appear to be no new policies to boost education spending”, said VOA.

The Muhammadu Buhari presidency often claims that the Boko Haram sect is on the verge of annihilation or defeat, but terrorist attacks and abduction of school kids in the restive North-east are still commonplace. To underscore the institutional cruelty meted out on Nigerian children, we must note that although the Constitution legalised free, compulsory education for children up to junior high school and followed it up with the establishment of Universal Basic Education Board. However, at all levels of government, what you see is neglect.

A former executive secretary of the Universal Basic Education, Prof Ahmed Modibbo, said northern governors frustrated the integration of the Almajiri School with Western education. He stated this at a public lecture with the theme, “Before the ban on the Almajiri system of education in Nigeria,” which was organised by the Centre for Historical Documentation and Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State on Saturday.

The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan in an attempt to keep almajiri off the streets, spent billions of naira to build model schools aimed at integrating the Almajiri School with Western education. But this met a brick wall. The former UBEC boss said it was because the governments of the region abandoned the project.

 “The northern state governors left the schools unoccupied, abandoned and vandalised. They neither take them over, nor fulfilled their obligations as contained in the memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government.

“The state governments were not happy with the decision of the Federal Government to undertake the project through UBEC and the Education Tax Fund as they wanted the money to be given to them so that they could nominate contractors for the project.”

The real life story of corruption by Northern governors and the abandonment of educational facilities set up by the central government for the benefit of the out-of-school children should, therefore, present a graphic picture of the unacceptable level of cruelty to Nigerian children unleashed by the elected set of elite whose children are all enrolled in schools in Europe and America.

Apart from the issue of abandonment of those special schools for the out-of-school northern children, the story of public education in virtually all states of the Federation, including the federal capital, is a show of shame because most schools are not properly supported with facilities that can stand the test of time; just as most schools are not properly supported with facilities that are of the best standards; most schools are derelict and in the final stages of deterioration and near-collapse.

The most disturbing phenomenon of cruelty, pain, agony and neglect unleashed on a grand scale on children born to less-privileged homes can be summed up by the cruel fact that in the 21st century, Nigeria still witnesses the enslavement of babies and the proliferation of what is called “baby factories” - where young girls are quartered by trafficking barons and men are hired to put them in the family way after which when the babies are delivered, they are sold to rich patrons for God-knows what and the proceeds of these cruelties shared among the participating gangsters.

This trend has gone on for far too long; and it would seem that the state houses of assembly and the political elite, whose children are safely kept away in Europe, do not want to save the Nigerian child.

The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs is not known to have adopted positive steps to get the relevant legislations such as the Child Rights law to be domesticated by majority of the states that still have not accepted this law passed in Abuja since 2003.

The kidnapping of babies for commercial benefits is such a horrendous national crime that must be eradicated so as to save our Nigerian children from these gangsters.

There is hardly a day that the popular media will not carry one story or the other concerning the crime of kidnapping of babies to an extent that it will not be out of place to advocate for the declaration of national emergency on welfare of Nigerian babies.

Also, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs should be changed to Ministry for Family Affairs so these types of scenarios are tackled headlong. The Women and Social Development ministry should transparently advertise programmes and projects that the central government is funding to benefit Nigerian children and the central and state governments must confront the monsters of child-enslavement of all types.  

Can anyone with the faintest milk of human kindness and conscience imagine the decline of respect for the human rights of the Nigerian children that has led a so-called biological father to sell his baby for N5 million with the idiotic excuse that he intends to feed his remaining 22 children in Nasarawa State?

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nasarawa State Command, said they arrested a 42-year-old man for allegedly attempting to sell his three-year-old son for N5 million in Lafia, the state capital.

The State Commandant of NSCDC, Mahmud Gidado Fari, said the man, Ayuba John, was arrested following a sting operation by officers of the command.

He said: “Ayuba John, who hails from Obi Local Government, arranged to sell his son for the sum of N5 million, our intelligence officers heard of the plot and commenced negotiation with the suspect who offered Solomon (the son) for sale and said he wanted the money, cash.”

Relatedly, the Oyo State police command arrested 60-year-old Asabi Adebayo for allegedly buying five babies (two boys and three girls), ranging from two years, eight months, seven months, six months and four months, at N5 million from Port-Harcourt, Rivers State.

According to Tribune, Asabi who is a US-returnee was arrested at an orphanage in Oyo where she had gone to obtain a certified police report to put the babies up for adoption.

This is also to call on philanthropists to add their goodwill and speak up against these atrocities against the Nigerian child. Saving our Nigerian children is a task for all.

•RIGHTSVIEW appears on Wednesdays and Saturdays, in addition to special appearances. The Columnist, a popular activist (www.huriwanigeria.com, www.emmanuelonwubiko.com), is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


Source: News Express

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