A Nigerian child is basically protected by the Child’s Right Act 2003 and Children and Young Persons Act. The laws seek to protect the child on every aspect of his life ranging from birth, survival, development, physical,mental, emotional, health among others.
The Child’s Right Act defines a child as one who is below the age of eighteen years. The implication of this provision of the law is that person who is above the age of seventeen is a adult. The Children and Young persons Act is used in states where the Child’s Right Act.Section 2 of the Children and Young persons act, provides that a child means a person under the age of fourteen years. A young person is a person who has attained the age of fourteen years but is under the age of seventeen.
Also, The Labour Act 1974 is another important piece of legislation for protecting the rights of children. It regulates child labour and protects children from exploitation and abuse .
Even as it seems that with the presence of these laws protecting the Nigerian child, he is secured, the reality is that the opposite is the case. Majority of the children in Nigeria still suffer abuse, used for trade, denied education, child marriage, to mention a few
The major causes of the loophole in these laws are –
Domestication of the laws
In Nigeria, the child’s right act, which was ratified In 1993, after the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, a Children’s Bill was drafted to implement the principles and Rights and Welfare of the Child in Nigeria. One would assume that the law would be. applicable in all the thirty six(36) states in the country, it is only domesticated in twenty five (25) states. Basically, the Northern states have not adopted CRA but the CYPA on the grounds the provisions of CRA are in conflict with religious and cultural norms. For instance, the CRA is strongly against;
(ii)prohibits marriage to members of an adoptive family.
(iii) It defines a child as anyone below the age of 18( eighteen).
Hence, a person can decide to leave a state where the child marriage is not permitted to where it is.
Enforcement of punishment
The laws provides for various punishment where there is breach of its provisions. For instance, 30(3) of the Child’s Right Act provides that a person who contravenes the provisions of Subsection (1) of this section ( which includes using children to beg for alms,dehumanising children) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of ten years.
Regardless of the provisions are made for punishment, there is disrespect for the laws as there is failure to enforce of the required punishment as a deterrent to curb or discontinue activities that adversely affect a child.The prevalence of child abuse in every form in Nigeria is due to the fact that the penalty has not been enforced effectively. The police and the courts have a role to play in the enforcement of the punishment in the CRA.
Lack of knowledge
It is safe to say that majority of the children in Nigeria are not informed of their rights. Parents, schools and the society at large have failed to let children know their rights,so they could tell if their rights have been tramped on.