Remember the girls pictured below? Well, they are one of the recent casualties of our reluctance as a nation to look out for the needs of the young and vulnerable members of our society, regardless of their ethnic, religious and political affiliations.
The girls above share one common nasty experience: they were both abducted (by older adult males) from their native places of birth and taken away from their families to the far North as child brides. While Patience was abducted and taken to Sokoto State, Ese was taken to Kano State. Patience was only 15 whilst Ese was only 12 at the time their abductions took place. By the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria, their “deceptive” or forcible removal from their homes constitute crimes against their human rights that is punishable by the laws of the land. The girls made headlines world over and were only able to regain their freedom after a long fight with their abductors on social media. To make matters worse, the whereabouts of the abductors of the girls and that of the girls was unknown to the police all of the time they were in captivity. Neither was is that there were no attempts from their families to get them back. All please from their families to get them back fell on deaf ears.
The two girls both spent at least 7 months, each, in the hands of their abductors who got them married off without the knowledge nor consent of their parents. I have chosen to post happy pictures of these girls in this blog post because that is how I would like to see every Nigerian girl child (with Patience and Ese inclusive) but nothing is farther from the truth. One could only imagine the trauma and damage that has been done to these girls by their abductors who as at the time of this post are yet to face the wrath of the law for their actions. One could only imagine as well the trauma and pain many Nigerian children have to endure each passing day of their young and innocent lives.
I have always known issues like these were bound to happen at some point in our society and it does not appear like Patience and Ese will spell the end of such sad occurrences either. What I consider more important is our reaction to events like these when they happen. Yes, our response to sad events like this defines us as a people. What we need in moments like this are solid, collective and unanimous NO from all and sundry, followed by real and well defined actions to forestall future occurrences (or at the least punish perpetrators swiftly as a deterrent to others contemplating such dastardly acts).
These events of early 2016 took me down memory lane to 2011 when I became curious about the laws that are supposed to protect children in Nigeria. This curiosity led me to an exploration of the Child Rights Act (CRA) of 2003. In a seven part publication, I wrote extensively about the way we are in denial about the rights of children in our society and how that the CRA 2003 is law only in 15 States out of the 36 States of the Federation and pointedly so that the States failing to implement the CRA are mostly in the North speaks volumes about why these girls were abducted and taken to the North. Of course abductions are not the only cases of child abuse taking place in Nigeria and this post is not about abductions alone. My post is about how far we have deviated from the rights of those who are supposed to succeed us tomorrow: in plain terms, we are refusing to pay attention to our own future. I wrote the piece about the CRA 2003 in 2011 and in 2016 not much has changed! This is a rather embarrassing statistic for a great nation like ours. A conclusion of my tour of the CRA 2003 could be found on the Facebook pages of a charity I lead and it is titled “Conclusion of our tour of the child Rights Act (CRA) 2003 – Nigeria”. I implore you to spare some time to read this piece (it will be worth every minute you spend).
Some important points made in my post from 2011 above include the following:
All Nigerian children regardless of where they are found should be treated equally. It is not enough that the CRA 2003 is adopted in some parts of the country while there is no mention of it in other parts of the same country. This will only lead to the creation of inequalities among States as it relates to child rights
- The adoption of the CRA 2003 in our opinion will place a demand on the system to make available such enabling factors that are required for effective enforcing of the provisions of the CRA 2003. This will thus force a change in the right direction out of the system for “necessity they say is the mother of invention”
- Failing to adopt the CRA 2003 on the grounds of culture and religion alone as may be the case in certain instances will not only hamper the development of the nation but will also help to deepen the divide in the nation along those lines. On the contrary, the careful adoption of a culturally and religiously sensitive CRA 2003 will lead to greater national unity which will foster national development and promote the rich cultural diversity and cultural heritage in Nigeria
The provisions of the CRA 2003 carry in itself the potential to stimulate growth and development at the grassroots
What I have been looking to see from our lawmakers, which is yet to happen, is a piece of law or legislation named after these girls. This legislation which I feel is long due should detail cases of abuse these girls have experienced with the aim of bringing swift justice to those who decide to toe the path of the perpetrators in the future. Something like the “Ese law” or the “Patience Act” for example. In saner climes, this is exactly what obtains”.
The problem in our country is not that we do not have laws, it is rather that we are not interested in implementing these laws and for very strange reasons. In the next couple of days, I will be posting the remaining 6 parts of the journey I made through the CRA 2003 and will post them here for all to read.