Nigerian Children at the Mercy of Brutes

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Nigerian children are having, perhaps, the roughest times of their lives right now as they are subjected to hard labour, physical and sexual abuses particularly by relations and certain members of the society. But will the country’s renewed efforts to check the abuses and protect the rights of children tame the brutes?

| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov 7, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |

VIOLENCE against the Nigerian child is on the rise. One does not probably need the statistical data to know this. Apart from the fact that the media are awash with reports on various abuses of children every day, it is also easy to find good examples around the locality. For instance, there is Ebere Onwubiko, a 12-year old boy, who lives with an uncle at Ajuwon, a suburb of Lagos. Onwubiko seems to have had enough of daily physical abuse and has now decided to find a way of going back to his parents in the village. He told Realnews that his aunty probably takes delight in beating and assaulting him without reasons every day. He narrated a heart rending incident of Monday, October 17, which resulted in serious head injuries.

He said: “Aunty Faith always beat me, last week Monday she asked me to look after the food she was cooking on fire. She also asked me to go and take my bath but I could not leave the kitchen because of food on fire to go and take my bath. So, I said let me go and brush my teeth first. As I was coming back she asked why I had to leave the kitchen and she started beating me. She even used the tooth brush to beat me on the head and broke it. She injured me on my forehead. I complained to my mummy but she didn’t do anything, just said sorry.” Onwubiko, who started living with his guardians since 2009, said he had passed through several punishments in their hands and also sustained various degrees of injures in the process.

The 12-year old boy, who hails from Abia State, has now stopped going to school in order to force his guardians to return him to his parents. He said he stopped school this term because he would rather return home than continue to live with the abuse.

Apart from the physical violence against children, another disturbing violation on the increase is that of pedophile. This has become a regular occurrence that a day hardly passes by without news report of sexual abuse against a child. On Tuesday, October 25, Enilolobo Olamilekan, a teacher, at Abogunloko area in Ikotun, Lagos, was arrested for having a carnal knowledge of one of his students.

Child abuse
Child abuse

At Police interrogation, Olamilekan, who hails from Lagos State, admitted to have lured the girl to his parents’ apartment at 17 Ayodele Shitta Street, where he took advantage of the 12-year-old Junior Secondary School 2 student. Parading the suspect before journalists at Ikeja, Dolapo Badmus, Lagos State Police public relations officer, explained that the suspect was apprehended by the school’s management after her mother lodged a complaint. His evil actions were revealed after the girl’s curious mother got wind of what happened and subsequently reported the case at the Ikotun Police Division. The suspect, according to Badmus, will be charged for indecent assault, admonishing parents to be wary of those they leave their children with, particularly girls.

In his statement, Olamilekan claimed that he did not have carnal knowledge of the girl. Rather, he said he only put his manhood into her mouth. He said: “I teach them Business Studies, while I take some of the students on extra lesson after school hours. Her mother requested for a private lesson for her daughter and I told the mother to get her writing materials last Tuesday.

“But on Wednesday, she did not do her homework and when I asked why, she said that her mother had not bought her the books. She also said that she was hungry. After giving them the assignment for the day, I went to a shop to buy some things and she followed me. I bought her some books, biscuits and also gave her N50. But the owner of the shop said I should return the empty bottles of soft drinks I earlier bought. She told the girl to follow me to collect them. When she got home, I brought out my manhood and put it inside her mouth. But when I saw my younger brother, through the window, returning from school, I removed it.”

Similarly, in Abia State, Adeleye Oyebade, commissioner of Police in the state, paraded one Emeka Asibiriobwu, a suspected rapist on Monday, October 24, for allegedly defiling a two-year-old girl kept under his care. Oyebade alleged that Asibiriobwu was arrested by the officers of the Abia State command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps in Umuahia, the state capital, for the act.

He said the suspect, who was still being investigated by policemen attached to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department, had raped the girl at Oriendu, a suburb of the state capital. “The suspect was arrested when the mother of the victim raised the alarm on sighting her daughter crying, while blood and fluid were gushing out of her private parts. The victim was taken to a hospital where the rape case was established. The suspect has confessed to the crime and will be arraigned in court after the conclusion of police investigation,” the Police boss said.

But the suspect denied raping the victim. He claimed that the mother of the victim did not keep her daughter under his care on the day the incident took place. “My neighbour just accused me of raping her daughter; but I didn’t do it. I have told everyone in our community that I have no hands in the ugly incident,” Asibiriobwu said.

Eze Duruiheoma, chairman, NPC
Eze Duruiheoma, chairman, NPC

Even some so-called men and women of God are also involved in violation of children. As recent at one month ago, Chukwuma Nkwocha, general overseer, Tongue of Fire Restoration Ministry, was arrested by Police in Lagos, for allegedly camping about 30 young girls as sex slaves. The 38-year-old Nkwocha, whose church is located at Sogunle area of Lagos metropolis, was accused of sleeping with the young girls, whose ages range from 10 to 15 years. Dolapo Badmos, state Police public relations officer, confirmed the arrest of the general overseer. Badmus said: “The command rescued about 30 young girls from the pastor’s custody. Two of them acknowledged he had carnal knowledge of them. However, investigation is ongoing.”

There is also the notorious case of Ese Oruru, a minor, who was abducted in Bayelsa State by one Dauda Yello and taken to Kano State for more than five months. She was five months pregnant when she was rescued. She has since put to bed and trying to return bank to school which was interrupted by her ordeal in the hands of her kidnapper. Also the recent abduction of a 14-year-old girl by Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, the 65-year-old Emir of in Kastina, is still fresh in the memories of a lot of Nigerians.

In many of the abuse cases, facts have revealed that the perpetrators are regrettably those who ordinarily should protect the interest of the child; these include parents, guardians, teachers, friends, and elders in the society. Besides, in Nigeria, parents and guardians have the rights to exercise control and supervision over the conduct of their children and wards, and thus can issue correction and disciplinary actions on the child. Consequently, children are corrected by beating mainly. This, the society believes, is important to ensure that children conform to the usual norms and values of the society.

In the traditional society, excessive beating could be controlled by the child running to any available elder and that would stop the beating; however, with urban migration that may no longer be obtainable.

Physical and sexual violence against children occur both in schools and within families – not to mention violence that affects children living on the streets or exploited by adults. Experts, however, have said reliable data on violence against children in Nigeria is scarce because violence is often not reported as it occurs mostly within the context where it is regarded as normal such as within the family circle or behind the privacy of homes. The predominant cultural belief is that children must be submissive to elders therefore behaviour not in conformity with this is punished. There are even concern that there is a generally high level of acceptance of domestic violence even amongst law enforcement officers and court personnel.

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa

That notwithstanding, available data has shown that violence against children is on the increase in Nigeria. A survey conducted by the National Population Commission, NPC, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, shows that millions of children suffer violence every year in Nigeria.

The survey stated that approximately six out of every 10 children in the county experience one of these forms of violence before they reach 18. It also stated that one in two children experience physical violence, one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence every day.

The NPC, in its 2014 national survey on violence against children in Nigeria made available to Realnews, stated that the majority of children who experience physical, sexual or emotional violence in childhood do so on multiple occasions. According to the survey, 80 percent of children suffer physical violence, 70 percent suffer sexual violence, while 80 percent suffer emotional violence.

Presenting the report at the just concluded media dialogue on End Violence Against Children, EndVAC, campaign, organised by the UNICEF in Ibadan, Oyo State, Sylvanus Unogu, deputy director planning and research, NPC, said children often experience more than one type of violence either at same time or at different points in childhood.

“Girls are significantly more likely to experience both sexual violence and physical violence than other combinations of violence. Boys are significantly more likely to experience both physical and emotional violence, than other combinations of violence. Of those children who experienced violence, over half of children first experienced physical violence between the ages of six and 11.

“Approximately one in 10 children’s first experienced physical violence under the age of five. A third of girls experienced their first incident of sexual violence between 14 and 15. Almost a third of boys experienced their first incident of sexual violence at 13 years and younger. 26 percent of females and 9.6 percent of males reported that their first sexual intercourse under the age of 18 years was forced.

Boy who was brutalised by his mistress
Boy who was brutalised by his mistress

“Approximately half of children first experienced emotional violence before the age of 12. The majority of children surveyed witnessed violence at home. 66 percent of females and 58 percent of males witnessed physical violence at home before the age of 18 years.”

The UNICEF, during a Media Dialogue on EndVAC Campaign in Ibadan, Oyo State, raised an alarm over increasing cases of violence against children in Nigeria, and attributed rising youth restiveness in the country to the phenomenon. Sharon Oladiji, child protection specialist with the UNICEF, who made the disclosure at the two-day workshop for journalists, said a survey by the global organisation indicated that the rights of a lot of children were being violated in the country.

She called for “child justice administration” to protect the rights of minors and the future of Nigeria. “The Survey also reveals that one in two children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence; and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence,” Oladiji said.

The child specialist noted that, in particular, cases of rape of children were on the increase. She, however, counselled journalists at the workshop on ethical reporting of children-related issues. She also observed that Nigeria had taken the right steps in addressing the challenge by being the first country in West Africa and eighth in the world to adopt the UNICEF’s policy for combating the scourge.

“The way we treat children that made mistakes, there are every provision to correct that child. Even from the social workers or police, it’s all a comprehensive law that is in this child rights act that have been domesticated by so many southern states in Nigeria. This is a simple thing that is in this act. It may be big or small but what we need is to study it and to begin to apply it with consent.

“Let’s begin to raise fathers, mothers and role models that can show human dignity. Let’s begin to raise families that can raise children who will be responsible adults. We have so many children from dysfunctional families, we have violence in our homes, we have a way we talk to our children at home, and we have a way we talk to one another in the society. If we begin to change the way we talk and even the way we raise our children things will change.

President Buhari
President Buhari

“We so much believed in punishment and even the kind of punishment we give our children can make or mar that child. Some parents don’t even have parenting skills. So, in a holistic manner what we are trying to say is that the way we treat our children matters and we should change and love them more. There are so many negatives and violence in the society and if we can begin to look at love and kindness and compassion towards our children and one another, I think we will make some progress.”

That, perhaps, informed the launch of a campaign tagged: “End Violence Against Children by 2030” by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, October 25. The campaign, an ambitious programme geared towards bringing to an end violence perpetuated against women and children, was launched at the State House Conference Centre.

Represented by Babachir Lawal, secretary to the government of the federation, Buhari said: “I say to children in Nigeria – on this historic day, we make a pledge. We commit to protecting each and every one of you from violence. The Year of Action has created a wonderful momentum to end violence against children. We have a clear moral, legal and economic imperative and a global obligation to take action to end the suffering of children who live under the shadow of violence.” The campaign is among the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, of the United Nations.

At the launch of the campaign in Abuja, the UNICEF appreciated the bold step taken by the president as well as his demonstration of love for Nigerian children by taking the lead to end violence against them by 2030. Doune Porter, chief communication officer, UNICEF, in a press statement made available to Realnews, quoted Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s West and Central Africa regional director as saying that with the campaign, Nigeria has shown its determination to mobilise political will and resources to tackle all forms of violence against children.

The 2030 End Violence Against Children Campaign, supported by UNICEF and USAID, builds and expands on the success of just-ended Year of Action to End Violence Against Children, launched by the President in September 2015. During the Year of Action, the Plateau, Lagos, Cross River, Benue States all heeded the president’s call to launch their own State campaigns; Bayelsa became the 23rd State in Nigeria to domesticate the Child’s Rights Act and nine States joined hands to develop a model child protection system to put the Child’s Rights Act into practice.

Oladiji
Oladiji

Porter noted that the SDG, agreed in September by all members of the UN, including Nigeria, to end all forms of violence against children by 2030. The SDG advocates for the end of abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children; eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation and eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

It also includes taking immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms; end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children and by 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration.

According to the SDG, every five minutes, a child dies as a result of violence and that an estimated 120 million girls and 73 million boys have been victims of sexual violence, and almost one billion children are subjected to physical punishment on a regular basis.

As part of Agenda 2030, the world’s governments have set ambitious targets to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, in order to deliver the vision of a world where all children – girls and boys alike – grow up free from violence and exploitation.

Fair enough. But it behoves on everyone in the society to protect every child whether or not it belongs to him or her in homes, schools, churches and various communities. Adoption of the laws on eradication is no doubt a step forward but implementation of laws concerning the children in all states of the federation as well as public education and awareness would go a long way to make the journey to 2030 less tenuous. The Nigerian child deserves everything that can be done to make him or her feel safe in his or her environment otherwise the future looks bleak, even for the country, Nigeria.

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