Being the text of lecture delivered by Michael Olajide Olanipekun Esq., during the Annual One Day Lecture Organized by Oladele (Mogba) Foundation, Oyo, Oyo State on Thursday 24th October, 2019 at Oladele (Mogba) Foundation Secretariat, Beside Oyo West Local Government Secretariat Complex, Ojongbodu, Oyo, Oyo State
1.0 I will like to seize this opportunity to thank the organiser of this programme for finding me worthy as a resource person to deliver a lecture on the above stated topic. Creating awareness to prevent child abuse and exploitation becomes very important given the high level of ignorance of the Law concerning the Rights of a child and the attendant commission of crime which carries prison penalties and fine as punishments that may follow such exploitation and abuse of children.
It is highly expedient to define and explain some key words that form part of this topic of discussion in order to put the discussion in proper perspective.
1.2 Exploitation: the Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary of current English Sixth Edition defines exploitation as a situation in which somebody treats somebody in an unfair way, especially in order to make money from their work; the fact of using a situation to get an advantage for yourself’
1.3 Abuse: the Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary of current English Sixth Edition defines abuse as unfair, cruel or violent treatment of somebody’
1.4 Awareness: the Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary of current English Sixth Edition defines awareness as Knowing something; knowing that something exists and is important; being interested in something.
1.5 Child (Children Plural): the Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary of current English Sixth Edition defines a child as a young human being who is not yet an adult’;
Child Rights Laws of Oyo State 2006 defines a child as a person under the age of Eighteen years.
1.6 Right: the Oxford Advance Learners Dictionary of current English Sixth Edition defines right (in the context of this lecture) as ‘a moral or legal claim to have or get something or to behave in a particular way: the same dictionary goes ahead to define human Right (which put our discussion in an appropriate direction) as one of the basic rights that every one has to be treated fairly and not in a cruel way, especially by their government
Invariably, the discussion of today is about letting people know and interested in how to treat fairly, without molestation or taking undue advantage of a person under age of eighteen. We will also highlight the repercussions of not treating fairly any young human being by making it known, the punishment prescribed by Nigerian Law that is protecting children Rights.
2.0 Child Abuse and Exploitation In Nigeria.
It is not a gainsaying that child abuse occurs in Nigeria, it has however received little attention. This is largely due to the general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children, yet there are traditional child raising practices which adversely affects children and against the modern trend of care for children which are protected by Legislations.
According to the United Nations, it is estimated that there are 15 million working Nigerian children under the age of 14. These children have been exposed on the street and forced into long hours of dangerous situations that are not developmentally appropriate as those children are at the risk of accident, violence, sexual exploitation and various disease due to these exposures have been reported.
In recent years the abuse and exploitation of children for political purposes in Nigeria has been on the increase, for example, on the night of 14-15 April 2014, the 276 Chibok girls that were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok, Chibok Local government Area of Borno State, North East Nigeria by the Boko Haram terrorist group while on the 19 February 2018 110 school girls between aged 11-19 were kidnapped by book haram terrorist group from the Government Girls science and Technical College (GGSTC, Dapchi, Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government Area, Yobe State, North East of Nigeria. There is no higher exploitation for political purposes or any form of abuse that any young person could be exposed to as the girls were subjected to all kind of sexual, physical and psychological abuse and forced labour.
There is also the case of the domestic workers in which majority are girls. These domestic workers popularly known as House helps are denied education, forced to work long hours with little or no pay, usually underfed, forced to live in terrible conditions and are also vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The vulnerability of children to various forms of abuse and exploitation in situations of conflict has increasingly been recognized as a major and serious protection issue.
There is considerable overlap between the terms abuse and exploitation. Abus eas earlier defined as the process of making bad or improper use, or violating or injuring, or to take bad advantage of, or maltreat, the person, while exploitation literally means using for ones own profit or for selfish purposes” clearly show the overlap
Child abuse includes the physical, emotional, or sexual mistreatment of a child, or the neglect of a child, in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power, resulting in actual or potential harm to the childs physical and emotional health, survival and development.
Physical abuse: the deliberate use of force on a childs body which may result in injury, e.g. hitting, burning, shaking, choking;
Sexual abuse: should be understood not only as violent sexual assault but also other sexual activities, including inappropriate touching, where the child does not fully comprehend, is unable to give informed consent, or for which the child is not developmentally prepared.
Emotional abuse: persistent attacks on a childs sense of self, e.g. constant belittling, taunting or humiliation, isolation and intimidation.
Neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in, or should reasonably be expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury or a substantial risk of death to the child. Neglect can include, but is not limited to, the failure to provide sufficient food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision and medicine. It can also include the failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, exploitation or neglect by another person.
Exploitation of a child refers to the use of the child in work or other activities for the benefit of others and to the detriment of the childs physical or mental health, development, and education. Exploitation includes, but is not limited to, child labor and child prostitution. Both terms, however, indicate that advantage is being taken of the childs lack of power and status.
The term child labour also presents some ambiguities because of its very negative connotations. Does domestic work within the family constitute child labour? Not all childrens work should be considered as exploitative, and in some situations may be regarded as beneficial to the child to make him/her have a robust and full development in domestic house chores which will enhance a balance adulthood when of age.
In many societies, almost all children undertake work, for example within the home or on the familys land. Many consider that work within certain limits contributes to childrens development and education, especially if that work can be combined with education. In some situations, the family can only afford school fees if the child works. On the other hand, certain types of work are unquestionably exploitative – e.g. bonded labour and work which is harmful to the childs health or wellbeing.
In determining whether childrens work in a particular context should be considered as exploitative, it is important to examine the totality of the childrens situation. It will be important to consider such factors as;
the age of the child;
the hours spent working each day;
the level of physical or psychosocial stress work creates;
the conditions of work;
the amount of pay;
the level of responsibility;
whether the child attends school;
the level of dignity/self-esteem children maintain;
Whether work contributes to or harms the childs psychosocial and physical development.
3.0 Rights of a Child in Nigeria and Penalties for failure to protect Such Right
Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees certain rights for all Nigerian citizens children inclusive.
3.1 The following are the fundamental Rights enshrined with chapter IV of the 1999 constitution:
Right to life Section 33 of the constitution.
Right to Dignity of Human person Section 34 of the constitution.
Right to personal liberty section 35 of the constitution.
Right to fair hearing section 36 of the constitution.
Right to private and family life section 37 of the constitution.
Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion section 38 of the constitution.
Right to freedom of expression and press section 39 of the constitution.
Right to peaceful assembly and association section 40 of the constitution.
Right to freedom of movement section 41 of the constitution.
Right to freedom from discrimination section 42 of the constitution.
Right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria section 43 of the constitution.
Right to compensation for any property government acquired compulsorily section 44 of the constitution.
Section 45 & 46 f the Constitution provided for procedure for enforcement of those above mentioned rights if any of them is trampled upon. The provisions of Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 are very clear on which court to approach to seek redress.
3.2 All the above stated right are subsumed and made part of child Rights taking into consideration of peculiar and special need of a child.
The child Rights Laws of Oyo State 2006 made copious provisions in section 5 (1) to cater for the provisions of the Chapter IV of the constitution stated above.
Other beneficial Child Rights provided for in 2006 Oyo State Laws which are largely unknown to the general populace are as follows:
Right to a name (Section 17) and compulsory registration of such name at birth pursuant to compulsory Registration Act of 1992.
Right to Leisure, recreation and Cultural activities (section 14).
Right to health Services every child is entitled to enjoy best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health [section 15 (1)]. Under this, the Oyo state Government is under obligation [section 15(3)]
to reduce infant mortality rate
ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care services to all children with emphasis on the development of Primary health care
ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water
ensure provision of good hygiene and environmental sanitation
combat disease and malnutrition within the frame work of primary health care through the application of appropriate technology
ensure appropriate health care for expectant and nursing mother
support through technical and financial means, the mobilization of the state and local community resources in the development of primary health care for children
Parents and Guardian Role: Every Parent and guardian or person having care and custody of a child under the age of two years shall ensure that the child is provided with full immunization [section 15(4).
Failure to ensure immunization, the parent, guardian or person having the care of such child has committed an offence and is liable to (a) a first offence, to a fine of not exceeding Five Thousand naira, and (b) a second or subsequent offence, whether in respect of that child or any other child, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month
Right to Parental Care and protection: No child should be separated from his parents against the wish of a child except (a) for the purpose of his education and welfare or (b) in exercise of a judicial determination in accordance with provision of the Law (section 16)
Right to Free and Compulsory Education: Every Child has right to free, compulsory and universal basic Education and it shall be the duty of the Government of Oyo state to provide such Education [Section 17 (1)]
Every Parent or guardian shall ensure that his child or ward attends and complete (a) Primary School Education; and (b) junior Secondary education
after completion of the basic education, parent or guardian should endeavour to send the child to a senior secondary school or make him to learn appropriate trade and the employer of the child shall provide the necessaries for the trade.
A female Child who becomes pregnant before completing her education shall be given the opportunity, after delivery, to continue with her Education.
Failure to ensure the above by parent/guardian, such person commits an offence and is liable:
(a) on first conviction to be reprimanded and ordered to undertake community service (b) on second conviction to a fine of Two Thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or both fine and imprisonment (c)on any subsequent conviction to a fine of not exceeding Five Thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two moths or both fine and imprisonment
Right of a child in need of special
Protection Measure (section 18): The are children with physical or mental challenges
Right of Unborn Child (section 19): A child may bring action for damages against a person for harm or injury caused to the child willfully, recklessly, negligently or through neglect before, during or after birth of that child.
An unborn child is entitled to the estate of his late father that died intestate an unborn child is entitled to the estate of his late mother that died intestate.
Prohibition of Child marriage(sections 23, 24 and 25): No person under the age 18 is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly, amarriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect
No parent or guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person.
Such betrothal is null and void
a person that marries a child or to whom a child is betrothed or who promotes marriage of a child commits an offence is liable to conviction to a fine of N500,000 or imprisonment for a term of Five years or to both imprisonment and fine.
Prohibition of Female Genital mutilation (section 26): No female Child should be subjected to genital mutilation.
Any person who subject a female child to genital mutilation is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of Twenty thousand naira of for a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both fine and imprisonment.
Prohibition of Tattoo or Skin Mark (section 27): No person shall tattoo or make skin mark or cause any tattoo or skin mark to be made on a child.
A person who tattoos or makes skin mark on a child commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding One month or to both imprisonment and fine
Prohibition of exposing a child to narcotics or usage of (section 28): any one that does that commits an offence and is liable on conviction to life imprisonment without fine.
Prohibition of usage of a child in commission of Criminal activities (section 29): any one that does that commits an offence and is liable on conviction to Fourteen years imprisonment without fine
Prohibition of Removal of a Child from the custody of his parents, guardian or any person having lawful care (section 30): any one that does that commits an offence and is liable on conviction to Fifteen years imprisonment without fine (if the child is within oyo state or Twenty years imprisonment if the child was taken outside oyo State.
Prohibition of Child Labour (section 31): No Child shall be subjected to any forced or exploitative labour or as a domestic help outside his own home or family environment.
any one that does that commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not exceeding Fifty thousand Naira or Five years imprisonment or to both fine and imprisonment.
If the offender is a corporate body it is liable on conviction to a fine of Two Hundred and Fifty thousand naira.
Prohibition of having sexual intercourse with a child ( section 34): any one that does that commits an offence of Rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life without fine
where a person is charged with an offence of child rape, it is immaterial if the offender believed the Child to be above 18 years or the sexual intercourse was with consent of such child.
Prohibition of other sexual Abuse of a child (section 35): a person who sexually abuses or sexually exploits a child in any manner apart from rape commits an offence and is liable on conviction to Fourteen years imprisonment without fine
Prohibition of Harmful publication that may be injurious to a child (section 37 and 38): any one that imports harmful publication commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of Thirty thousand Naira or a term of Three years imprisonment or both
- any one that print, publishes, sells or let on hire any harmful publication that commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of fifty thousand naira or Five years imprisonment or both.
It is crystal clear that exploitation and abuse of children have serious legal implications under our law with far reaching consequences in term of punishment attached to the offences as a result of child abuse and exploitation.
It is quite unfortunate that we the full weight of the Law has not been felt by those that abuse and exploit our children largely because parents or guardian of those victims are mostly guilty of the offences or refuse to report to the Law enforcement agencies under the disguise of protecting the victim.
Consequent to non reportage of such offences, Child abuse and exploitation is on the increase.
I wish to humbly urge parents and guardians to make sure that report any such abuse and exploitation to the Law enforcement agencies through Non governmental Organization Like Oladele (Mogba) Foundation that will ensure that the needful is done to get justice and also protect the identity of such victim.
Also, I wish to recommend to Oyo state government to provide the manpower that will allow to function adequately the Family Court that will take care of the adjudication of such cases in the best interest of such child. Also, the Government should ensure that Childs right committee both at State and Local government Levels are constituted because they necessary for implementation of Child Rights Law 2016 of Oyo State.
I want to conclude that to have a community that will be free of Child abuse and exploitation, all hands must be on deck to promote our age long traditional values that recognise the usefulness of children as pride of the society and its future.
I once again thanked Oladele (Mogba) Foundation for inviting me to share my thoughts with you and also commend the Foundation for living up to its objectives with this awareness on Child rights and other laudable programs it has been carrying out since inception. I also thanked the audience for your rapt attention.
Thank you all
Michael Olajide Olanipekun Esq, A Legal Practitioner and Notary Public of the Supreme Court of Nigeria is the Principal Counsel of Olajide Olanipekun Law Firm (Ojulari Chambers) based in Oyo, Oyo State, Nigeria