“I live with my parents at 4, Kuforiji Street Orile, Lagos. On July 7, I ran away from home after receiving severe beating from my father. My offence was that I tried to stop him from beating my mother. My father accused my mother of using his hard-earned money to play lotto game and he descended on her with anything he could lay his hands on. My father alleged that my mother loves patronizing lotto game and he beat her up mercilessly and broke her knees.
Despite my mother’s cry for help, none of our neighbours came to her rescue because they are afraid of my father. When I could not bear the beating anymore, I begged my father to stop. He became furious and pounced on me, using a barbed wire to flog me.
This is not the first time my father will beat my mother and I. I have lost count of his endless beatings. On one occasion, I begged my mother to relocate four of us, her children, to Ilorin so we can stay away from our father due to his constant beating.”
This is the ordeal of 12-year-old Kafayat Kareem, a JSS1 student of Canal Secondary School, Orile, Lagos State in the hands of her father. She would have died but for the intervention of Operatives of Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Ebute Meta Chapter, Lagos, who saw her writhing in pains at night at Oyingbo market and rushed her to Star Clinic, Ebute-Meta for treatment. Similarly, the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, rescued a 12-year-old boy living at the Badagry area of the state from the hands of a 70-year-old woman who after she had rubbed freshly ground pepper on his penis for allegedly stealing money from her.
These cases depict the current nature and pace of violence against minors in the country. In most of the cases, the victim did not survive the ordeal. While many may frown at the man involved in the first instance for his brutality, the woman in the second case may garner some support especially from those aged 30 and above who were raised in homes where such acts were perpetrated to serve as a deterrent.
That is why, for instance, a lady simply identified as Uju would support under age maltreatment, saying “when parents correct a child verbally or with the cane severally and he or she refuses to obey, they can adopt other disciplinary measures to drive home the message this may often include the use of fresh pepper. The boy in question could be stubborn and the old woman may have talked or flogged him severally to no avail. Growing up, my mom put pepper in my private part for disobedience and talking back at her.
It hurt no doubt but the message stuck- never talk back at your parents no matter how hurt you are. I may not be in total support of the use of fresh pepper on children considering the fact that the experience could be excruciating however, for a woman of 70 to decide to do that to a child, the child may have hurt her real bad.” Different strokes for different folks they say, thus, for Fortune Babalola, a civil servant, using pepper on the genitals of minors as a corrective measure, is not an option to be considered by anyone.
According to him, “even though most parents those days indulged in it, it is not something I would want this present generation to continue with. It is unhealthy, inhuman and barbaric. Some people even put the pepper in the eyes of the offender without realizing that it could make the person go blind. The sensation you get when you eat a very peppery meal or after washing a large quantity of fresh pepper with your bare hands, is indescribable let alone using it on another person. There are other ways to correct an erring child, the use of fresh pepper, is certainly not one of them.”
Violence against children is rife in the country probably because offenders usually go unpunished or, at best, they go through prolonged trials. Cruelty against children though a wicked act, is a worldwide phenomenon, which ought to be condemned by all. UNICEF says that violence against children occurs in several settings, which include the home, school, work and community. Could perpetrators be indulging in it be they are often left unpunished or they receive lesser penalties when indicted?
While speaking on the negative effects of physical abuse of minors, Greg Okafor, a psychologist, said “ Violence or physical abuse is the second most common form of child maltreatment and children who are abused could develop child traumatic stress. An abuse be it physical or emotional on a child, could result in adult experience of shame, nightmares, severe anxiety, depression alcohol and drug abuse, feelings of humiliation and unworthiness, ugliness and profound terror.
There is need for the society to put an end to this else we lose our children this is because every minute in this country, a child is being abused somewhere and most of them are as young as 3 years. Government and health workers including psychologists need to help these children to overcome the trauma lest they grow into maladjusted adults and end up posing more threats to society.” With the growing rate of violence, children are indeed no longer safe with adults and in recent times, even with their fellow children.
It would be recalled that in 2013, two secondary school boys lured their fellow school mate to a den of iniquity where he was killed in Lagos State. In another development, in July 2015, the police arrested 16 year old Tajudeen Azzez for allegedly killing a four year-old boy for ritual purpose. He was alleged to have lured the deceased to the back of Anglican Primary School, Ijanikin where he killed him and removed his intestine and kidney before he was arrested. He was said to have confessed in his statement to the police that a man simply identified as Osho, promised to give him the sum of N50,000 if he could get vital human organs for him.
The question on the lips of many is how vulnerable have children become in the hands of moneybags? In the case of this 16-year-old alleged murderer, did he single handedly dissect his victim? What does he really want to do with money at this age? Meanwhile, Lagos State government has declared a zero-tolerance level on child abuse and domestic violence and would not hesitate to prosecute those found to have violated the rights of children in the state.
This is in addition to the Sexual Offences Bill 2015, recently passed by the Senate. Concerned citizens say if the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons lacks the needed manpower to live up to its responsibilities, it could collaborate with relevantNGOs in a bid to redouble its efforts to reduce violence against minors. In these days of mind-your-business attitude, a lot of children suffer in silence, as many tend to look unconcerned.
There is need for Nigerians to revive the beyour- brother’s keeper attitude to not only monitor what goes on around their vicinity but also to alert the law enforcement agencies of such acts of cruelty against children in their areas. Since 2003 when the Federal Government adopted the Child Rights Act, a global initiative aimed at protecting children from the vagaries of life, only 16 of 36 states have domesticated the law.
A report by the African Union said 6,000 Nigerian children are in prison and detention centres across the country. “Nigeria has been unable to deal with several issues hindering the protection rights of children such as children living on the streets, children affected by communal conflict, drug abuse, human trafficking and the weaknesses of the juvenile justice system, amongst others,” UNICEF said. Another UNICEF report on Violence against children in Nigeria, said “reliable data on violence against children in Nigeria is scarce because violence is often not reported as it occurs mostly within the context where it is regarded as ‘normal’ such as within the family circle or behind the privacy of homes. The predominant cultural belief is that children must be submissive to elders therefore behavior not in conformity with this is punished.”
-Nwakaego Ohaegbulam writes on the increasing spate of violence against minors and the need for parents to show love to their children