In a bid to provide a suitable environment for the safety of children against any form of abuse, especially at the grassroots, experts in child welfare advocacy have called for the enactment of laws that guarantee the protection of young people.
The call is against the backdrop of rising cases of child abuse in different parts of Nigeria, which according to the experts, record little efforts from many state and local governments in checkmating the menace.
At a meeting on child protection held recently with elected officials of the Oshodi-Isolo local government area of Lagos state, Head of Country Office in Nigeria, Terre des Hommes, Mrs Olapeju Osoba, lamented the spate of child abuse in the country.
She said there was a need to put the right laws in place, especially at the local government level, that would guarantee the safety of children.
Osoba, who hinted that local governments do not have any laws in place for protection of children, called for legal framework for bye-laws on child’s protection.
She further demanded that lawmakers should consider appropriating “minimal funds” for issues of child protection in their next year’s budgets.
Speaking with GLOBAL PATRIOT NEWSPAPERS, GPN, at the end of the meeting, Osoba said: “The purpose of the meeting is actually to have an advocacy discussion with the legislators to see the possibility of having the right laws in place to protect children.
“We observed the gap; that local governments don’t have any laws in place for the general protection of children and Oshodi is an area in Lagos noted to be high level of vulnerability of children.
“So we are advocating that the lawmakers should make available policies that will protect children.
“And we demand minimal funds in next year’s budget for issues of child protection that the local government will begin to take conscious measures on the issue of child protection and migrant children,” the Head of Country Office, Terre des Hommes, stated.
She said Terre des Homes, which focuses on issues relating to migrant children, would continue to make advocacy for child protection.
“For us at Terre des Hommes, which is about migrant children, we look forward to the inclusion of policy on migrant children. But in all, the advocacy is to look at protection of children in general.”
When asked if there was no existing laws on child protection at state level, Osoba said “There is a component in the state’s law that talks about putting a Child Rights Committee in place at the local governments but we don’t have any of such.
“And that is why we are advocating that Oshodi should begin by creating a committee that will allow that policy to be enacted and enable child rights laws to function well in Lagos,” she concluded.
Also speaking, coordinator, Child Protection Network (CPN), Oshodi-Isolo, and president Advocates Oil, Mr Ebenezer Omajelile said: “As for today history has been made.
“It was a long journey before we got to this point. This is the first local government that is setting the pace in Lagos and in Nigeria at large.
“What we are doing today is that we have identified the problems and if we are able to inaugurate the committee and make the bye-law, the lives of our children will be well protected in Oshodi Isolo.
“And we are using this medium to call on other local governments in the state and across the country to follow in this direction.
“Although the laws are there in some states but are they effective at the local government level and at the grassroots?
“These are the people (parents, guardians and neighbours of the victims) who don’t know what to do when such abuses are perpetrated on the children.
“And for us as child protection activists, we need those bye-laws that will enable us function without inhibitions of any sort at these grassroots.”
Omajelile tasked the lawmakers to witness some of the cases of child abuse in court in order to assess and evaluate the weight of the menace and its impact on children’s livelihood.
He further called on residents to report to the appropriate authorities any incident of child abuse in their locality.
“For today’s subject of discussion on child abuse, I just want us to take home this single message of ‘see something, say something and do something’ to save our children from any form of abuse,” he charged.
In their reactions, the lawmakers, who expressed delight with the meeting, promised that the bill would be considered.
“I am very excited because this is happening in my time as the law will be passed,” the House Leader, Hon. Rasheed Obasa, told our Correspondent.
“As a matter of fact I am meeting the executive chairman as soon as possible so that the bill will be passed.
“The children are the future of tomorrow and we need to protect them and this is what this law will do.
“I will also use this opportunity to talk to our mothers to always keep an eye on their children in order to guide them against keeping bad friends,” he said.
“This incoming bill is critical because it will help us, our children and the local government,” Hon. Jaiyeola Azeez said.
“When the bill gets to us at the legislative council meeting we will look into in and give it a speedy passage.”
In a remark, the Vice Chairman, Tpl Daisi Oso, said: “Today is a day of history and joy for me and a day of liberation for our children in Oshodi Isolo local government who are perchance in any way being abused in our various communities.
“So basically what we are doing here today is that the local government and the NGOs working for the safety of our children is to look at a bill so that a bye-law can be passed that will guarantee the protection of our children.”
Oso said witnessing some of the child abuse cases in court would be welcomed as it would give room for proper evaluation of the matter.
“Witnessing some of these cases of abuse in court is a good idea because it will enable us as government to evaluate the enormity of the issue of child abuse and the challenge we have on our hands.
“If we don’t listen to prosecutions in court we might not have the full understanding of the issue. So when we have the understanding of the way and manner the offenders perpetrate the acts then we can come back to the council to put measures and laws in place and policies to checkmate such deeds.
“So it is a good thing we witness cases of such and this will even help us to hear the story from the victims and the defence of the accused,” he concluded.