Despite available policies and legal measures put in place to protect the rights of children in Nigeria, there are still increased forms of violence against children in the country.
To tackle the menace, the Lagos State government last week rolled out strategies to prevent all forms of child abuse in the state through the launch of a groundbreaking campaign to end violence against children.
Thereby making it the first state in Nigeria to respond to the call by President Muhammadu Buhari, for every state in the country to initiate their own campaigns during the National Year of Action to End Violence against Children, launched 15th September 2015.
The launch which was in collaboration between Lagos state, the US Mission in Nigeria, UNICEF and other development partners witnessed the unveiling of the findings of the Nigeria Violence Against Children Survey carried out by the National Population Commission, with support from UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Speaking at the event , the Lagos State Governor , Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, said: “ It’s disheartening to know as revealed by the findings that millions of our children are suffering physical, sexual and emotional violence every year and that the vast majority are suffering in silence.”
Ambode, who was represented by the Deputy Speaker Lagos State House of Assembly, Sanni Eshin- lokun, said: “We have a clear moral, legal and economic imperative to end violence against children. We cannot allow the findings or the priority actions to remain on paper.” “We have an obligation to our children to take action. I enjoin all especially civil society organisations, faith based organizations, media group and all stakeholders to sign on this plan of action for eradication of violence against children”, he noted.
According to the survey, millions of children suffer violence every year in Nigeria – approximately 6 out of every 10 children experience some form of physical, emotional and sexual violence before the age of 18 years.
The survey which was presented to Special Representative, UN Secretary General on Violence against Children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, by Chairman, National Population Commission, Eze Duruiheoma, found that: one in two children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in 10 boys experience sexual violence; and one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence.
Commenting on the survey, Santos Pais, said: “The study is a remarkable example of how research can bring to light the hidden face of violence against children.”
“Making the true extent of violence visible is critical to mobilize public support and generate steady action towards its elimination”, she added.
In her remarks, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria , Ms. Jean Gough, said: “While national level commitments are important, how these commitments are translated into action at state, local government area and ward level is critical. UNICEF congratulates Lagos on setting an example for the rest of Nigeria. We hope that where Lagos has led the way, other States will follow.”
Also speaking, US Embassy Charge d’Affaires, ad interim, Maria E. Brewer, said: “We have made progress in this fight but much still remains to be done. All children must be protected from abuse, violence, exploitation, and neglect. Violence against children is never justified. Violence is preventable”
In a comment, Chairman, National Population Commission, Mr Eze Duruheoma, on his part said the Violence Against Children in Nigeria National Survey conducted in 2014, discovered that perpetrators of violence against children were mostly relatives and teachers and the key places such violence happen were in the homes and schools.
“Lack of awareness on how to seek redress or help by violated children also contributed to the high rate of the menace.
“Therefore, there is the need to intensify and invest in enlightenment and advocacy programmes,” he said.
– Angela Onwuzoo