By Gabriel Chy Alonta
Violation of child’s right law and violence against persons with disabilities (PWD), formed the crux of the discussions at a two-day workshop organised by the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) for the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Anambra state.
RoLAC, a British Council initiative funded by the European Union and is charged with reforming the criminal justice system to ensure that women, children and people with disabilities have access to justice; improve the performance of anti-corruption agencies and enhance the voice of Nigerians in curbing corruption.
The workshop which took place in Awka, the Anambra state capital, also featured experts and facilitators, who raised critical issues on the rights of the child; sexual and gender-based violence, juvenile justice system as well as the role of the media and CSOs in the implementation of the laws.
Speaking during the workshop, the Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, Prof. Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, decried the poor implementation of the child’s right law in Anambra state and Nigeria at large, calling for increased grassroots sensitisation to awaken the consciousness of the people with regard to the provisions of the law.
Ezeilo, who disclosed that child’s right law was passed in Anambra in 2004, pointed out that lack of proper implementation aids, such as commissions, family court and other relevant institutions as provided by the law, pose threat to helping children in conflict with the law.
Maintaining that there ought to be concrete actions towards the implementation of the law by those concerned, Ezeilo bemoaned the increase of defilement which, according to her, had reached a level of impunity.
Her words, “Child’s right law says that having sexual intercourse with a person under age 18 whether with consent or not is an offence. It is unfortunate that this is violated at an alarming rate and this is why we are partnering CSOs and the media to disseminate information, to enhance knowledge and capacity so that people will know and become aware.
“Effective implementation of the law will bring justice and succour to many who are victims of gender-based violence”, she said.
Ezeilo is also the founder of Women’s Aid in Collective (WACOL), a non-governmental organisation saddled with giving free legal aid services for women and girls. She identified drugs and alcohol as causes of sexual abuse, stressing that perpetrators should be made to face the full weight of the law for their actions.
Speaking on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the university don listed physical abuse, emotional, abandonment, child labour, neglect as well as the failure to properly safeguard the physical health, safety and well-being of a child as some of the ways a child could be abused.
She lamented the evil of human trafficking prevalent in Africa, saying that irregular migration should be discouraged. She charged the media to make them a national discussion.
Also speaking at the workshop, another facilitator, Ms Rhoda Prevail Tyoden, bewailed that children have been subjected to reckless abandonment and unfair treatment in the homes and society at large.
Rhoda, who said that children remained future leaders, remarked that they must be given the opportunity to discover and harness their potential to contribute positively to society.
Disclosing that 25 states in Nigeria, including Anambra, were among those that had adopted the child’s right law, she, however, regretted that there were cases of abysmally low implementation, adding that most northern states were yet to cue in due to religious belief.
She called on the media and CSOs to bring the issue to public domain as well as to hold government accountable for their actions, adding that child’s right remained sacrosanct and must be protected.
“Media play a great role in changing the society. There is need to advocate the increased awareness and implementation of Child’s Right Law”, Rhoda said.
In a remark, the Anambra State Coordinator of RoLAC, Josephine Onah, said the training would help to re-shape CSOs as vanguards in society and guide the media in delivering quality reportage on the crux of the issues raised.
Onah, while expressing optimism that the participants would go back to apply the lessons from the training, noted that the training was means to an end, even as she extolled the participants for graciously honouring the programme.