Tag Archives: Protectingachild

FACT CHECK: HAS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT REALLY BEEN ABOLISHED IN NIGERIA?

There is some news going round in Nigeria to the effect that corporal punishment has been finally abolished. Speaking to a Nigeria-based newspaper outfit (Premium Times), one Vice-Principal of an Abuja based private school (name withheld) said exactly: “Following the Act of the Federal Ministry of Education, there is no more corporal punishment in schools. It is only the head teacher who is permitted to punish any child indicted of a grievous offence. Teachers or any other person are not allowed to give corporal punishment to students.”[1]

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A critical analysis of the statement will reveal some inherent contradictions. First, assuming but not conceding that an Act was passed; how effective is an Act that purports to abolish corporal punishment but does not do so completely. Clearly, from the statement above, the power to punish using corporal punishment is still vested in the head teacher. Herein lies the loophole; the power to inflict corporal punishment when vested in anyone – is easily susceptible to abuse and can easily be misused by an ill-intentioned head teacher. Not to be forgotten is the fact that corporal punishment generally can negatively affect learning outcomes by reducing enthusiasm for learning and increasing dejection in studies.[2]

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Again, one wonders whether it is within the purview of the Federal Ministry of Education to enact an Act. The making of Laws and Acts are a function of the legislature, particularly the House of Assemblies at the state level and the National Assembly at the Federal level respectively. At best, the Federal Ministry of Education can issue a policy banning corporal punishment but this cannot be as effective as a law banning corporal punishment. If corporal punishment is to be abolished in Nigeria, the proper procedure is for all the states’ Houses of Assembly as well as the National Assembly to clearly enact a law abolishing the same. This no doubt, is the way to go in protecting the psychology of young Nigerians and reforming the approach to correction in our homes and educational institutions.

THE REALITY

The reality is that corporal punishment is still part and parcel of the Nigerian legal system. Both legislations and decisions of the courts still support this assertion. A case in point is, Section 55 (1) of the Nigerian Penal Code which clearly states thus:

“Nothing is an offence which does not amount to the infliction of …grievous hurt upon a person and which is done –

  • By a parent or guardian for the purpose of correcting his child or ward; that child or ward being under eighteen years of age; or
  • By a schoolmaster for the purpose of correcting a child under eighteen years of age entrusted to his charge
  • By a master for the purpose of correcting his servant or apprentice, the servant or apprentice being under eighteen years of age; or
  • By a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife such husband and wife being subject to any customary law in which the correction is recognized as lawful.”
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The above cited law has not been repealed and the major disadvantage is the tendency that the discipline it allows might be stretched too far. There is clearly no yardstick for determining which level of grievous hurt will amount to an issue as sensitive as corporal punishment. By failing to delimit clear boundaries, the said law fails to outline which level of corporal punishment is permissible and justifiable.

The posture of the Nigerian Supreme Court also seems to disfavor the protection of children from corporal punishment. Particularly, the Nigerian case of Ekeogu v Aliri[3] appears to have given an imprimatur to the above legislation that allows corporal punishment. The occurrence in the case was thatthe teacher had earlier ordered his pupils on the 2nd of December, 1985 to go outside to witness how a mob was dealing with a thief so that they could gain some lessons on how to behave appropriately. To punish their failure to return the classroom on time, the teacher beat each of the pupils including the pupil who lost her eye. While the trial court held that the act was a crime, on appeal to the Supreme Court however, the judgment of the trial court was reversed on the questionable basis that the teacher was simply acting in the position of her parents (i.e. in loco parentis) by trying to ensure that he maintained an orderly and disciplined classroom.

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The Court said exactly, “What happened in this case was nothing more than the appellant discharging his duty and it was only a sheer accident that the child was hit in the eye resulting in its damage. I cannot discern any criminal intention on the part of the teacher.”[4] The teacher escaped liability, but an irreparable damage had been caused to the life of a young girl for a reason as trivial as returning a few minutes to class. Sadly, the court Supreme chose to be deliberately oblivious of the attendant violation of rights that accompany corporal punishment.

One really wonders how appropriate the description of the event as “a sheer accident” is. The infliction of corporal punishment begins substantially in the mind and the thoughts and intentions therein are virtually impossible to know.   By its actions or inactions therefore, the apex court of Nigeria was by implication, ratifying the draconian act of corporal punishment.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Going forward, both the legislature and executive (law making through policy and law making respectively) ought to give full force to the protection of children from torture so ably espoused in section 34 of the Nigerian constitution. The said section states that “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – (a) no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; (b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

Again, courts and Nigerian judges, in the spirit of judicial activism should be pro-active when interpreting the laws and they should do so in a manner that is favourable to the abolition of corporal punishment. Going forward, it will be helpful for Nigeria’s highest court to revisit its decision in Ekeogu v Aliri,[5] with a view to altering the posture it took. Essentially, in the march towards the abolition of corporal punishment, all hands must be on deck. Every institution must move from promises to practices, commitments to concrete projects and from mere intentions to implementation.

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                                                REFERENCES

Azeezat Adedigba, ‘Teachers, Parents react as Nigerian Schools Gradually Abandon Corporal Punishment’ Premium Times Newspapers  (February 23, 2020)

Russow J., Learner Discipline in South African Public Schools; A Qualitative Study, (Koers Publishers, 2003)

Thomas J. Baechle, ‘Corporal punishment in schools: An Infringement on Constitutional Freedoms’ (1971) Cleveland State Law Review

United Nations, ‘UN Chief Calls for Domestic Violence ‘Ceasefire’ Amid Horrifying Global Surge’; https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061052> accessed 16 September, 2021

The 1999 Constitution of Nigeria

The Penal Code Act


[1] Azeezat Adedigba, ‘Teachers, Parents react as Nigerian Schools Gradually Abandon Corporal Punishment’ Premium Times Newspapers  (February 23, 2020)

[2] Russow J., Learner Discipline in South African Public Schools; A Qualitative Study, (Koers Publishers, 2003)

[3] lawcarenigeria.com/john-ekeogu-vs-elizabeth-aliri/

[4] supra

[5] lawcarenigeria.com/john-ekeogu-vs-elizabeth-aliri/

IMPACT OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC ON CHILD’S RIGHT

This is no longer only a global health crisis, it is also an economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people.”[1]

  • Guy Ryder, Director General, International Labour Organization

The Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) is prevalent in more than 193 countries of the world today prompting the World Health Organization to  upgrade the status of Covid-19 from an epidemic to a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.[2]. Nigeria, the most populous black nation became the first African country to record a positive case of the virus from an Italian immigrant on February 25, 2020.[3]  The negative impacts of the pandemic are better left to the realm of imagination than the province of reality.

The world is clearly set to experience its worst depression only after The Great Depression of the 1930s.[4] Again, the international labour Organization estimates that over 25 million jobs and 3.4 trillion dollars will be lost in labour income world-wide while 100 million more people may be forced into extreme poverty.[5] This portends graver implications for a nation like Nigeria, which prior to the pandemic, was already the world’s poverty capital with a poverty rate of 33 percent.[6]

The begging question remains, what is the impact of the foregoing on child’s right? It does not take rocket science to realize that the child’s rights to life, survival and development which are guaranteed by Article 6 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are significantly under threat. In this connection, Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states, “State parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. State parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible, the survival and development of the child.” With glaring poverty levels however, it becomes practically impossible to attain adequate nutrition, right to a healthy and safe environment, security and adequate standard of living which are sine qua non to achieving the right to life.

Again other rights like the child’s right to play, leisure and freedom of association has been affected as it has become practically impossible to keep in touch with friends and outside spaces for play are practically unavailable. There are however more serious implications than the foregoing. It is noteworthy that child trafficking, sexual exploitation and child labour are evils resulting from poverty, which has been brought about by this pandemic. In fact, the huge poverty occasioned by the pandemic is expected to increase child labour by 0.7 percent globally – an estimate that radically alters the prospects of reducing child labour for the first time in 20 years.[7]

Furthermore, another implication of the poverty occasioned by this pandemic is increase in child marriage; a.phenomenon that refers to giving out children below 18 years of age to adults as spouses. Already, 43 % of girls in Nigeria are married before their 18th year old birthday, crowning Nigeria as the 11th state where child marriage is highly operative.[8] The pandemic may however worsen this statistics because child marriages will be the most viable alternative for families on the fringes of survival. It becomes a typical example of “take my child while you give me food.” This position is corroborated by the United Nations Population Fund which has in fact estimated that an additional 13 million child marriages may take place over the next 10 years.[9]

Lastly, the child’s right against violence has been compromised by the pandemic. The huge poverty emanating from the pandemic can serve a triggering factor for frustration of adults and consequently, the infliction of violence on children. Sadly, incidents of violence and child abuse are less likely to be detected because of lockdown measures. The implication is that the infliction of violence will most likely be carried out covertly.

This situation is worsened in view of the fact that child protection agencies have reduced monitoring in order to avoid the spread of the virus and the ability of child protection institutions to respond adequately has been weakened. Already, more than 1 billion children are exposed to violence yearly.[10] With the pandemic however, this figure will be magnified and significantly increased. This is no doubt a threat to the actualization of Article 37 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states that: “State parties shall ensure that: (a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In conclusion, in view of the grave havocs that COVID-19 and its concomitant poverty could wreck on child’s rights, it is imperative for governments to respond with positive laws and policies to ameliorate the looming economic dangers. The United States of America provides a ready example in this regard. She enacted her CARES (CoronaVirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act under which 2.3 trillion dollars, amounting to 11 percent of the United States Gross Domestic Product was dedicated to providing one-time tax rebates to individuals, expanding unemployment benefits and providing food safety nets for the most vulnerable citizens as well as loans for small businesses. Also, under her Pay Check Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, over 483 billion dollars was ear marked to assisting small businesses in the United States of America.[11] Developing countries like Nigeria could follow suit. This will significantly reduce poverty, whose effect is to threaten the rights of children.


[1] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang–en/index.htm

[2] news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059261

[3] www.icirnigeria.org/report-nigerian-inmates-live-in-danger-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/amp

[4] http://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/04/14/imf-global-economy-to-contract-by-3 percent-due-to-coronavirus.html

[5] http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_738742/lang–en/index.htm

[6] tradingeconomics.com

[7] Najat Maalla M’jid, “Hidden scars: the Impact of Violence and the COVID-19 Pandemic on Children’s Mental Health” (2020) Journal of Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health https://campmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13024-020-00340-8

[8] http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/child-marriage/nigeria/

[9] United Nations Population Fund, “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Planning and Ending Gender-Based Violence and Child Marriage, UNFPA 2020.

[10] https://reliefweb.int/report/world/covid-19-and-children-s-rights

[11] http://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#U

CHILD ABUSE: The four main types

Child abuse is a harmful infliction of pain on a child, this pain can be inflicted by parents, teachers, care givers, family members and so on. According to Article 1 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the child, the convention defines a child as persons up to the age of eighteen. Child abuse may take different forms on a child, however, some persons are victims of more than one type of child abuse.

While growing up, I have been a victim to more than one of the types of child abuses, some were not intentional while some were intentional. Passing through the phase had its negative and positive impact in my life. I believe a lot of children have experienced one form of child abuse or the other.

According to the Centers for disease control and prevention, the types of child abuse are as follows:

  1. Physical Abuse: I presume this is the most common type of child abuse especially in developing and underdeveloped countries. The administrators of this type of abuses are ususally under stress or mental problems, employment/financial issues, have a history of abuse, etc, therefore, pouring out their frustration on innocent children. In addition, this type of abuse coud be administered by parents, teachers, school prefects, neighbors or any older person. This type of abuse includes torturing, excessive hitting or slapping, severe punishments, withdrawing the child from eating or sleeping
  2. Sexual Abuse: This is having sexual relations of any kind wih a child. This can be by touching seductively, penetration, watching illegal sexual contents, telling them dirty stories or jokes and so on. In this type of abuse, it is difficult to identify who to blame, either the parents for uneducating their children about sexual topics or for exposing them to neighbors or the perpetrators themselves for taking advantage of the child or the government for not providing enough protection for children or for not creating awareness about the rights of a child to fight against such act. It is not unheard of for parents to sexually abuse their children. If you are interested in more details about child seual abuse, I have a full blog post on child sexual abuse here.
  3. Emotional Abuse: This is a constant disregard for a child by using horrible words on them and making them feel worthless, unvaluabe and unloved. This can happen by mocking a child, Ignoring a childs participation, silent treatment, frequently yelling at a child, telling them they are mistake and of no good in life, bullying, preventing them from socializing with peers, makin the feel guilty and so on. Although, It usually does not start with one, it then becomes problematic when repeated severally. In this type of abuse, I presume the parents or abusers either lack the right parenting style, undergoing mental stress, use hard drugs, etc.
  4. Neglect: This is when a parent or care giver fails to meet up with the psychological, physical or nutritional needs of a child, which coud affect their health or development. This includes leaving a child alone to experience loneliness or harm, locking the child up in a room like a prisoner, not providing the basic needs of the child such as food, clothing, education and shelter.

It is important to note that you as an adult may be guilty of these acts in one way or ther other. We should always know that there are other ways to discipline or treat a child when they misbehave. The mental health of a child is very important.

Ways we can help are as follows:

  • Creating awareness for your children or student about appropriate and inappropriate behaviors such as sexual discussions. Teaching a child to know when to feel safe around a man and when not to.
  • Teaching a child how to seek help and knowing emergency contacts numbers off hand.
  • Open communication with your child is important, make the child feel comfortable around you, as this will make it easier to spot if anything unusual happens.
  • Adequate security is important in a family, making sure that the home is safe for a child especially when they will be left alone in the house.
  • Parents and care-takers should endevour to monitor their child/ children but be care not to over-encroach their personal space. It is important to know where they are, what they do, and who their friends are.
  • Having good relationship with people around you, especially people who look after your child/ children such as their teachers, carers, friends or parents of friends. This will always come useful in grooming and protecting a child in the best way.

Having said all that, I do hope you have learnt one or two things about child abuse as a lot of children are going through one or all of these types of abuses. Help a child.

Feel free to share so as to create awareness about child abuse, also feel free to drop your opinions or experiences in the comment section.


That loophole in protecting a Nigerian child.

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;
(i)child marriages.
(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.