CHILD RIGHTS ACT AND CHALLENGES OF ITS IMPLEMENTATION AMONG SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS IN URUAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF AKWA IBOM STATE
1.1 Background of the Study
Current researches report that before the advent of child protection laws (and Acts) more than 85 million children worldwide were subjected to the worst forms of child labour, including trafficking for commercial sex exploitation and hazardous physical labour (World vision, 2015). Most children suffer from all forms of abuse (physical and psychological) and total neglect from family members. However, in some communities especially in Africa and parts of Nigeria in particular, child slavery, exploitation, torture and bad treatment within the family were experienced.
In the pre-colonial days, children served as an object for rituals, and till recent years, the adoption of child Rights Law in Akwa Ibom State, children have faced serious ejection from the family for various witchcraft accusations thereby leaving the child and exposing him/her to various societal abuses which are detrimental to the growth, development and sound health of the child (Humanium, 2015). Equally, children did not have the guarantee of living and growing up with their parents. Most children were normally sent out on the popular house-help businesses in Uruan Local Government Area which in many instances further exposed the child to various risks including road accidents (through road hawking), torture, sexual abuse and a total denial of his/her educational needs. Children did not have a decent standard of living, and, the unborn children were never guaranteed of their rights to life especially for the unmarried parents.
Children’s rights are human rights. They protect the child as a human being. As human rights, children’s rights are constituted by fundamental guarantees and essential human rights (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 – as amended). The children’s rights were recognized after the 1st World War, with the adoption of the Declaration of Geneva in 1924 (Humanium, 2015). The process of recognition of children’s rights continued with the adoption of the Declaration of children’s rights in 1959. However, the recognition of the child’s interest and his rights becomes real on 20 November, 1989 with the adoption of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which is the first International legally binding text recognizing all the fundamental rights of the child (Humanium, 2015).
Among the 2003 Child Rights include: the right to name; right to survival and development; right to provide; right to freedom from discrimination; right to the dignity of the child; right to health and health services; right to parental care; protection and maintenance; right of a child to free and compulsory and universal primary education; rights of a child in need of special protection measures and so forth (FGN, 2003).
Developing interest in the rights of a child in Nigeria is not a nightmare again since the Federal Government of Nigeria has adopted the United Nations Convention on the right of the child into our National Legislation and practice with effect from 2003 Law. However, the adoption of the child’s right law is one thing and it is another thing for the enforcement of the law and its implementation.
Implementation is a process of interaction between setting of goals and actions geared towards achieving them (Olaniyi, 2003). Policy implementation is therefore programme implementation. Implementation is the stage where one grapple with the reality of the problem which the child’s right law is meant to address (Egonmmwan, 2006). The child rights law is meant for the benefit of parents, guardians and government as partners in the development of children. As the law enters its implementation phase, the following are what it will achieve: Legally binding instruments for protection of children’s right; provision for the setting up of a family court to try suspects for speedy adjudication of offenders; create conducive environment for child development; enthrone peace and security in the society; bring an end to child abuse by criminalizing and penalizing abusers; comprehensive government protection for rights of children; strengthen mechanisms and programs for the defense and protection of children; empower government agencies to represent the interest of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by individuals citizens regarding children’s rights as well as sustain our legacy for future generations (AKSG, 2008; UNICEF, 2007).
However, except the Federal Government begin an immediate implementation of the provisions of the child Rights Acts which it adopted in 2003, the purpose and benefits of the Acts would continue to have little or no impact on the lives of Nigerian children. Due to lack of commitment towards the Act by those in authority, this has caused millions of Nigerian children to be at the mercy of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease, squalor, war, slavery and other forms of bondage. Pitiably however, stakeholders in child issues lamented that since the passage of the Act in 2003; just 21 States have adopted it while others are plundering (Defense for Children International, 2014). Worst still, none of the States that have adopted the Act have begun implementation. Thus, the fate of those children hangs in the balance.
Many concerned Organizations and individuals have so far called for the formation of a Committee on child protection in communities across the 36 States of the Federation including Abuja, where members should be drawn from the various ministries concerned with children, Civil Society Organizations, the Police and Prisons among others (Obinna, 2011), who will be responsible for massive creation of awareness about the child Rights Act as well as monitor its implementation.
In Akwa Ibom State, and particularly in Uruan Local Government Area (the study area), the implementation of child Rights Act has faced an up-hill task ever since its adoption. This is so because traditionally, people (the natives) see the many issues contained in the Act as an aberration from the norms of the society. For instance, a child popularly acclaimed to be a witch accused of being the sole cause of the predicaments of the parents or the entire family would automatically be ejected from the family. Equally, the people had stubbornly refused to recognize the Act in areas of female (as well as male) child circumcision (genital mutilation) because this is the core traditional practices of the people and till date, it remains doubtful that the implementation of the Act would totally eliminate this practice among the people.
It is therefore in view of the above challenges and other similar challenges to the implantation of the Child Rights Act that forms the focus and the need for this study.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The socio-political environment in Nigeria in the past years is quite filled with issues of the abuses of the rights of the children of Nigeria. For instance, the recruitment of persons falling below 18 years of age as fishermen in and around the riverine area of Uruan Local Government Area, the continuous marriage of young school-age girls by adult males – big enough to be their parents; the continuous practice of female genital mutilations on young girls in the area of study of the Country even after the Child Rights Act (CRA) was in place; the prevalence of street children roaming the streets and major city motor-parks hawking wares even during school hours; and of course the child labour of various sorts are all cases of abuse of the Nigerian children.
The present research seeks to unravel the immediate and remote factors which inhibit the full implementation of the Child Rights Act in the study area (Uruan Local Government Area) in particular and Akwa Ibom State in general.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study was to assess the challenges to the implementation of Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area. Specifically, the objectives of the study were to investigate:-
- The level of awareness of Child Rights Acts among Secondary School Students in Uruan Local Government Area.
- The influence of poverty on the implementation of the Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area.
- The influence of traditional beliefs of the people on the implementation of the Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area.
- The influence of awareness of parents/guardians, on the implementation of Child Rights Act.
1.4 Research Questions
The following research questions were raised for this study
- Are you aware of the existence of Child Rights Act?
- Does poverty influence the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act in Uruan Local Government?
- Does a traditional belief of the people influence the implementation of the Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area?
- Does level of awareness of parents/guardians, influence the implementation of Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses were formulated for this study
- Poverty has no significant influence on the implementation of the Child’s Right Act in Uruan Local Government Area.
- Traditional beliefs has no significant influence on the implementation of the child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area.
- The level of awareness of parents/guardians has no significant influence on the implementation of Child Rights Act in Uruan Local Government Area.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study shall be useful to a number of end users like the government, parents, children caregivers and the general public. The government would be informed through the results of this work of the necessity of the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act in order to check the continuous abuse of Child’s rights in Uruan as well as within the country. The parents through the results of this work, would be fully aware of the rights of their children which will induce them to realize that they owe their children the right to education, training, and development as well as the protection of their children among others.
Children (persons under 18 years of age) on the other hand, would learn from this work the basic rights which are accordable to them, thereby learn to utilize the benefits of these rights for self-development towards becoming a better and responsible adult in the future.
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
The scope of the study was limited to one of the Local Government Areas in Akwa Ibom State named “Uruan”. Three variables were considered for the study thus: poverty, traditional beliefs of the people; and the level of awareness of the parents/guardians on the provisions of the Child rights Act.
1.8 Basic Assumptions of the Study
The researcher has made the following assumptions:
- It is assumed that if the Child’s Rights Law is fully implemented in Nigeria, the abuse of the child world be drastically curtailed or eliminated.
- It is assumed also that most people easily get biased and provoked wherever a national policy contravenes with their traditionally beliefs, and it becomes a little difficult to relinquish the unhealthy traditional beliefs.
- It is assumed that the results and the inferences made in this work will be dependent on the source and correctness of the primary data.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Rights This refers to something one is legally, morally or officially allowed to do or have.
Implementation The process of moving and idea from concept to reality, to take action or make changes that one has officially decided should happen.
Act: A bill which becomes a law through a formal process known as proclamation. An act creates a new law or changes on existing law.
Child This is a young person, boy or girl who is aged from birth to 18years.
Challenges A difficult task, especially one that the person making the attempt finds more enjoyable because of that difficulty.