Some Lagos-based lawyers on Monday called on more states to domesticate the Child Right Act to safeguard the rights and interest of children.
The lawyers told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the domestication would improve safety of children and protect them against child trafficking, child labour and other abuses including denial of education.
According to them, there is the need for states to adopt the Act and promote its enforcement.
NAN reports that the National Assembly enacted the Child Rights Act in 2003 in domestication of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.The Act forbids all manner of child abuse. It prohibits separation of children from their parents against their will, except where it is in their best interest.
Mr Anthony Makolo, Principal Partner of Makolo Anthony Empowerment Foundation, urged that the law should be reproduced at the state and government local levels.
He told NAN that there had been a rise in the number of out-of-school children in recent times, saying that some of such children were hawking goods on the streets and in heavy traffic during school hours.
Makolo also called for effective enforcement of the law for achievement of the objectives.
“It is imperative to note that every individual has a set goal, vision and dream, which are largely nurtured from childhood.
“It, therefore, means that there is the need to give full weight to the provisions of the Act, which focuses on the welfare of children.
“No law precludes a child from being dutifully engaged for parents, but the law forbids denial of basic necessities to a child.
“Apart from the right to life, education is the foremost right of every child, but sadly, not everybody is keen on this necessity,” he said.
Mr Iyke Agwu, Managing Partner of Iyke Agwu and Co., called for adequate punishment for child rights violation.
“In Nigeria, law enforcement is a problem; children’s rights are violated at will; for instance, using children for forced labour, slavery, sexual exploitation are now prevalent.
“Abuse of children used as housemaids, in some instances, led to their death, while some are left with permanent injuries.“To arrest this ugly trends, law enforcement agencies should be strengthened and supported for effective performance,” he said.
He called on states yet to adopt the Act to do so urgently in the interest of the Nigerian child.
He also urged establishment of special juvenile courts to handle cases of child rights violation.
Mr Michael Dugeri, a Senior Associate with Austen Peters and Co. Solicitors, blamed child abuse on lack of awareness of relevant laws including Child Rights Act.
Dugeri noted the enactment of the Act had in increased child rights advocacy but said that there was the need for more public awareness on its provisions.
“We need strong public institutions to drive compliance; we also need to invest more in public awareness on the provisions of this very important Act.
“The relevant authorities must be proactive especially in ensuring a thorough prosecution of those engaged in child labour,” he said.
NAN reports that about 12 states have yet to domesticate the Act.
Religious and cultural beliefs inherent in the states are some of the setbacks to the domestication of the law.