On November 20, 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child ( CRC ), whilst the OAU Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child ( CRCW ) in July 1990 .Nigeria signed both International Instruments and had ratified them in 1991 and 2000 respectively. Both protocols reflect children as human beings and as subjects of their own rights.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child ( CRC ) outlines the human rights to be respected and protected for every child under 18 years and requires that these rights be implemented.
Against this background, a draft of the Child Rights Bill aimed at principally enacting into Law in Nigeria the principles enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the AU Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child was prepared in the early 90 s. But it is only after about 10 years with several Heads of Government and heated debates by the lawmakers that the Bill was eventually passed into Law by the National Assembly in July 2003.
It was assented to by the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in September 2003, and promulgated as the Child Rights Act 2003. The Act is a legal document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of a child in Nigeria and provides for a system of child justice administration. With these developments, it is expected and mandatory that Nigerian children are well protected and a breach of such act attracts a punishment to the offenders. But the question is, even in these states where the bill has been passed, to what extent are children’s rights being protected and enforced ?
This is the question begging for answer in the face of enormity of challenges confronting Nigerian children on a daily basis. Apart from the privileged ones, majority of Nigerian children are being faced with the problems of living on the streets, communal conflicts, deprivation, drug abuse, human trafficking, weaknesses of the juvenile justice system, child abuse, rape, violence poverty and many other social vices. According to a 2014 survey by the National Population Commission, with support from UNICEF and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, six out of 10 Nigerian children experience at least one of these forms of violence before they reach the age of 18.
With this, it is obvious that it is not yet uhuru for Nigerian children even with passage of the Child Rights Acts being implemented by some states. But so shocking is the discovery that majority of Nigerian children do not even know what their rights are.