Bukola Saraki, the President of the Nigerian Senate has lamented poverty in children which he says can set a child back for the rest of their lives.
“Out of every five children, two currently live in poverty, while millions live in poor housing, crowded rooms, squalid conditions, on streets and affected by communal conflicts and insurgency,” he said at a roundtable event on “Advancing the Rights of the Nigerian Child” organized by the Office of the Senate President to commemorate Children’s Day (May 29) in Nigeria.
According to the Senate President, at just 22 months, a poor child’s skills already trails behind those of better-off toddlers, adding that “at age five, that poor child, even if he or she is very bright, will have been overtaken at school by a less talented but more privileged class mate.”
He called for the “release of these children the trap” in order to unleash their potentials, which is “critical if we are to create a society that is truly fair.”
Saraki said the starting point of creating a fair society is to review what protection our laws offer this “demographic vulnerability”.
The Nigerian Senate President, and groups of Civil Society Organization (CSOs) present at the roundtable event called on all the states of the Federation to “immediately begin the process of complete domestication and strict implementation of the Child Rights Act (CRA).”
Referring to existing laws which offer special protection to children and other vulnerable groups in Nigeria such as the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, (VAPP Act, 2015) and the Child Rights Act (2003), he said the “domestication and strict implementation of CRA and VAPP are critical for success in the battle to raise a future generation of national torch bearers.
The domestication of the Child Rights Act has been concluded in 24 States, while the remaining 12 States are still examining it. “It is my hope that the scrutiny of the Act will enhance its inclusiveness and the comprehensive protection of the Nigerian child,” he added.
Saraki said that much more needs to be done at all levels of State governance, but particularly at the local level, through meaningful cooperation and collaboration of all actors involved in the field of protecting children. He called for the establishment of functional Child Protection Units which provide quality social services for child protection and empowers families in need.
The Senate President also wished Nigerian children a happy celebration, adding that the event was meant to celebrate the resilience and perseverance of Nigerian children in overcoming the many obstacles of childhood.
Personalities and CSOs that participated in the roundtable discussion included KauwaDamina,the Speaker of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, representatives of the European Union (EU), The Malala Foundation, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Youth of Africa, National Democratic Institute (NDI), Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and a cross section of teachers, students and pupils from primary and secondary schools in Abuja.
Veronica Ogbole / Nigeria