13-year-old’s Umar Farouq’s sentence is one reason every Nigerian state should domesticate the Child Rights Act

“It is up to today’s generation to demand that world leaders from government, business and communities end child rights violations now, once and for all. They must commit to action to make sure every child, has every right” – UNICEF

Every child has a right to be protected against all forms of abuse and violence. In fact, violence against children, in whatever form, should attract dire consequences. Hence, the need to domesticate the Child Rights Act across Nigeria’s 36 states to protect minors from stringent punishments they have no business dealing with.

It was reported on August 10, 2020, how Umar Farouq was sentenced to ten years after been found guilty of blasphemy by a Sharia Court for alleged use of foul language against Allah, in an argument with a friend.

Several rights groups who have been working to appeal the sentence against the 13-year-old might have turned to deaf ears. UNICEF, a Child Rights agency recently joined their voices to the child’s plight.

Peter Hawkins, a UNICEF representative in Nigeria, in a statement on Wednesday, said, “The sentencing of this child of 13-year-old, Omar Farouk to 10 years imprisonment is wrong. It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State, has signed on to.”

He added that the sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991. He also stated that it is a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 2001, and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development. Hawkings called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.

There are, however, several obstacles to domesticating the Child Rights Act. According to one study, majority of the Northern states in Nigeria are yet to domesticate the law. Other impediments to domesticating the Child Rights laws include political factors, protest by the supreme council for sharia in Nigeria, gender discrimination, religious practices, and cultural practices among other things. And the dangers in delaying the domestication of the law are grave.

What this means for minors especially in the North, is that children will cease to be treated like children. Hence, the need for stakeholders, including Federal Government, state governors, to consider domesticating the Child Right Act to protect minors from stringent punishments, and make our society a more child-friendly place for the Nigerian child to live in.

If a child must be punished for wrong-doings, Nigeria will have to borrow a leaf from other nations, by establishing alternative measures to address juvenile delinquencies with a focus on behavioural correction, rather than adopting measures that may be destructive to the lives of the young ones.

Here’s how Nigerians are reacting:

 

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