Children in Prisons: Suffering for the ‘sin’ of their Parents? (3)

It is obvious that the Nigerian child is again endangered. Where do we go from here? I think there is a solution worth sharing in Section 221(3) & (4) of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003, ‘(3) A court shall, on sentencing an expectant or a nursing mother, consider the imposition of a non-institutional sentence as an alternative measure to imprisonment. (4) Where institutional sentence is mandatory or desirable, an expectant or a nursing mother shall be committed to and be held or detained at a Special Mothers Centre.’  Article 30 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child corroborates the foregoing provisions as follows, ‘state parties to the Charter shall undertake to provide special treatment to expectant mothers and to mothers of infants and young children who have been accused or found guilty of infringing the penal law and shall in particular: (a)ensure that a non custodial sentence will always be first considered when sentencing such mothers; (b) establish  and promote measures alternative to institutional confinement for the treatment of such mothers; (c)establish special alternative institutions for holding such mothers;(d)ensure that a mother shall not be imprisoned with her child.’

I think the foregoing provisions give me a platform today to advocate for the implementation of the law.  One of the problems, I found in my 16 years of child protection advocacy is that zeal to implement the laws that we make is not commensurate with the zeal with which we make the laws. This attitude must change if we must give our children hope and a future. The issue is by virtue of Section 221 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003; we should not have one nursing mother with a child in the regular prison, not to talk the 69, which The Controller General of Prisons admitted.

I urge the federal government to move quickly in saving our children. I think it is not enough for the federal government to give directive that children should be removed from prisons. Adequate machinery must be provided.  For example, how many Special Mother Centres do we have in Nigeria? What is the plan to build and equip same in the 36 states of the federation? The state of humanity is in the hands of our children according to Abraham Lincoln. Therefore we must be serious about our children and remove them from prisons. Permit me to sign out with the instructive words of Marian Wright Edelman, ‘If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.

I think I should sign out here. Thank you for visiting today. Sure you learnt one or two things on how to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY and Think the FUTURE.

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