By Bukar Bolori
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has reiterated the need to devise and strengthen national accountability mechanisms that will deter harmful practices against children, so as to enable them to attain all-around development in life.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Chief Tony Ojukwu stated this in his welcome remarks at the commemoration of the 2022 Day of the African Child (DAC).
He noted that the celebration is an opportunity to take stock of what has been done with regards to the adoption of policies and practices targeted at eliminating harmful practices affecting children in Nigeria.
Ojukwu, who was represented at the event by the Director Monitoring department, Mr. Benedict Agu, said the 2022 theme of the celebration, “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy and Practice since 2013”, is appropriate as it seeks to address the peculiar human rights challenges affecting children.
He noted that amongst these challenges, are negative harmful practices such as early/forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child trafficking, etc.
He said that against this background, the Commission’s role in advancing the campaign to end harmful practices affecting children is hinged on its mandate to promote, protect and enforce the rights of all persons in Nigeria.
He said. “Notably, the Commission was a critical partner in the advocacy for the passage of the Child’s Rights Act 2003 and has been involved in continued advocacy for its adoption into Child Rights Laws of about 26 States of the Federation. It is also a member of the State Child Rights Implementation Committee of several States in Nigeria and has continued to advocate for the mainstreaming of children’s rights in relevant policies of the government.”He stated that the Commission has further prioritized child rights in its work through the creation of the Department of Women and Children and the thematic team on the Rights of the Child, which has enabled it to take action against pervasive child rights abuses such as child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Infanticide, child trafficking, etc.
In her key message, a Member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, Ms. Aver Gavar said that the commemoration of DAC is an opportunity to sensitize duty bearers on the importance of engaging children in their own issues and promoting participation and inclusion in line with the principles of child participation.
According to Gavar, who is also the Director of Human Rights Education and Promotion in the Commission, the focus of the DAC 2022 is also to respond to the high prevalence of harmful practices affecting children in different parts of Africa, including rape, FGM, child marriage, infanticide, etc.
She urged the government to strengthen its child protection system through increased budgetary lines across sectors dealing with child rights implementation and through the establishment of one-step centres for integrated response to child survivors of rape, child marriage, FGM and all forms of violence against children.
In her address, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen disclosed that the Ministry has made progress in spearheading a range of policy documents to address harmful cultural practices, like the implementation of the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) 2003, National Guidelines on Establishment of Child Care Institutions, and National Strategy on Elimination of child marriage.