By Adua Bitrus
Often times I wonder if we really give thought to advocating for the child. The future of Nigeria lies with them and if we really wish for a good future, we must never hesitate to safeguard their rights – no matter the cost.
The abuse of a child in all ramifications has become a gene in our society, yet little is said and done about it. It has been realized that thousands of children across Nigeria are being abused sexually even by their family members. Perhaps we still believe or assume that in every African society, the extended family system always provide love, care, and protection to all children. Little do we realize that there are traditional child-rearing practices that adversely affect children. Practices such as: abandonment of severely handicapped children, abandonment of normal infants by unmarried or very poor mothers in cities, increased child labour, exploitation of children from rural areas in urban nuclear families by childminders and sexual abuse of children.
Large number of children experience abuse everyday from people they know and trust and it threatens their survival, development and participation in society. A situation analysis of child abuse and neglect in Nigeria undertaken through the medium of Nigeria newspapers, found that child abandonment, sexual abuse, child neglect, vagrancy, kidding and hawking were the most reported forms of child abuse and neglect.
It’s really heart-breaking to see underage children used as house maids and even sent out to hawk at odd hours. Sometimes I wonder the kind of barbaric culture some Nigerians believe in, sending out a child to hawk under unfavourable conditions at the expense of their safety. Sending children out to engage in things like these only subject them to many of the damaging aspects of street life.
In the eastern and western parts of Nigeria where children go hawking after school hours, a growing number of them never return home at the end of the day; including girls and they subsist and exist on the streets.
In Northern Nigeria where the Moslem religion is predominantly practiced and begging is allowed, young boys and girls lead handicapped adults about on the streets to beg in which they end up receiving a pittance for their services.
What baffles me a lot is the Moslem religion which prohibits girls from becoming pregnant before marriage, thereby encouraging early marriage, recommending that a child should take a husband before her second menstruation. It is recognized that children may thus be exposed to suitors when they go hawking. Some of these mothers lubricate their daughters’ vaginas before sending them into the streets so as to prevent serious injury if they happen to be assaulted sexually.
Let me draw our attention back to when the senate sat to deliberate on legalizing the girl-child marriage. If out of all issues affecting Nigeria, such as insecurity, corruption, bad hospitals, poor state of schools and uncountable others, the apex law-making body could sit and deliberate on legalizing this barbaric, evil act, then I’m scared that we are at the brim of legalizing murder.
Let me once again draw our attention that out of the several hundreds of monsters that call themselves men perpetrating this evil of raping and impregnating innocent young girls is one of our senators and former Governor, Senator Yerima, who has made it an habitual thing to impregnate young girls and divorce them at his own free will and yet nothing is done to curb his excesses. Is he above the law? I doubt it. I wonder where the right to freedom acclaimed in the constitution is. I believe there is no greater slavery and abuse than impregnating a young girl who is yet to get her bearing in life and yet all we do is sit, fold our hands and watch all these happening to young girls with bright futures and yet we expect a better future for our country.
I’m sorry to say if we have to continue this way, then I’m scared of what the future holds. No one seems to care a bit about these children; our political leaders are out there to play their games of enriching their pockets and neglecting their duties. All perpetrators of these inhumane acts must be brought to book and justice must prevail otherwise, I see a bleak future for Nigeria.
By Adua Bitrus