By Adebola Rayo
The Child Rights Act is only just one more law that is not properly enforced in Nigeria.
Perhaps because of the harsh economic realities in the country, some parents are not disinclined to sending their children away with ‘aunties’ or ‘uncles’ who take them to other cities and subject them to all kinds of inhuman and abusive conditions.
It is not uncommon to go to homes and see children between the ages of 10 and 15 working as domestic help, a situation which amounts to child abuse and is prohibited by the Child Rights Act. A lot of these children do not get proper care from the people they work for, and are often poorly fed, clothed and educated.
Recently, when one of such kids was brutalised by her ‘madam’, Chigozie Godrick, and her school teachers reported the case which was prosecuted, due to constant adjournment and financial constraints on her mother’s part (the woman had been coming from the east to attend the court sessions), the parties settled out of court. The ‘madam’ paid ₦20,000 as settlement. ₦20,000 for a child she had beaten with a water hose and left visibly injured several times.
Yesterday, the police announced the arrest of one Rosemary Udoh who had been using a 13-year-old girl for prostitution in Ogun State. The 13-year-old told the police that her ‘madam’, who was someone her mother knew, forced her to sleep with at least 10 men every day, for fees ranging between ₦500 and ₦1500. Not only is prostitution illegal, child prostitution makes the situation even grimmer. The young girl was earning ₦150,000 for the woman every month.
The above are only some of the examples of the forms which child abuse takes in the country; another very common sight is children on the street chasing after cars to sell their wares.
The Child Rights Act is only just one more law that is not properly enforced in Nigeria. There is hope, however, that if the police arrest more people like Rosemary Udoh, the country will begin to move towards putting an end to the child abuse – both the alarming ones like child prostitution, and the house help phenomenon that is subtly becoming acceptable and pervasive in the Nigerian society.
Arrests are not enough though, as the first case shows. The delays in the Nigerian criminal justice system need to be eradicated, especially with respect to such sensitive issues as child abuse. Victims will not be encouraged to seek redress if the cases are drawn out and the consequences of child abuse end up being as light as a ₦20,000 settlement.