I see that the media and its practitioners have twofold responsibilities:
The first fold is to educate the African Child about his rights and responsibilities. It is their responsibility to demystify the anti-children myth that children become rude to the elders, particularly their parents when they become aware of their rights. The protagonists of the myth forget that rights of children are given to them by God and without knowing and exercising them they can never live a normal life. They do not understand that we do not give children their rights, we only respect the rights have given to them. They do not understand that children play major and inevitable roles in their protection and ignorance is a major hindrance to them in playing that role. They do not understand that teaching children their rights is not to condone their excess, which must be curbed through discipline, but to protect them from abuse, which does irreparable damage to their spirits, souls and bodies. They do not understand that it is part of the rights of the child to also know and be alive to his responsibilities as childhood does not mean liability.
It is sad to note that there are people working with children, who are stoutly defendants of this baseless myth. I am not even sure there are no members of the press, who believe that children should not be seen, not to talk of being heard. Few years ago, I met with the executive director of a Non-Governmental Organisation, which works children in the area of education to defend our proposal to teach children their rights. The executive director opposed our proposal on the ground that when children know their rights, they will become disobedient to their parents. It was so shocking that I was speechless.
The media is faced with a herculean task to not only education children about their rights but to reorientation those who are obstructing their education. Section 20 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003 mandates private and public institutions to help children to understand and live up to their responsibilities as set out in Section 19 of the Act, which we have discussed in their sessions. Pleased find reproduced the express provision of Section 20: ‘Every parent, guardian, institution, person and authority responsible for the care, maintenance, upbringing, education, training, socialization, employment and rehabilitation of a child has the duty to provide the necessary guidance, discipline, education and training for he child in his or its care such as will equip the child to secure his assimilation, appreciation and observance of the responsibilities set out in this Part of the Act.’
The second fold of the responsibility of the press is again divided into two branches: the first is to educate the members of the public about the rights and responsibilities of children. It will also require the media to galvanize the members of the public to demand the government and its agencies to establish structures, which will give teeth to the provisions of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003. For example the Act makes provision for the establishment of Specialized Police Unit, which is to comprised of trained officers, equipped to handle children’s matters in all its ramifications, including when children are in conflict with the law. The issue is that the Specialized Police Unit is yet to exist in the manner that the Act provides. The media need to bring pressure to bear on the Inspector General of Police to create and invest in the setting up of the Specialized Police Unit as envisaged by the law. What we have today all over the country is makeshift police sections, comprising in most cases of untrained and half-trained officers, handling children’s matters.
The second leg of the media role under this second fold is to set an agenda to see that the Child’s Rights Act is domesticated in the 12 states, which are yet to promulgate same in the last 10 years since the Act was passed by the National Assembly. It is common knowledge today that the following states are yet to pass into law at the state level, the Child’s Rights Act, Enugu, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Katsina, and Zamfara. The recent crisis, which attended the amendment of Section 29(4)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria again supports the argument that these states should as a matter of supreme urgency and in the best interest of the child pass this laws. I have shed ample light on the foregoing when I discussed child marriage in the earlier sessions.
In my humble opinion, the Nigerian press has to a large extent been faithful in reporting cases of injustice against the child. But the press, I believe, beyond reporting needs to actually move to holding public officers responsible and accountable to the people, particularly as it pertains to the rights of the child. Few sessions away, I made available a list of unresolved murder cases perpetrated against the Nigerian child. One bitter truth is that except the press plays its watchdog role, these cases will forever remain under the carpet, where it has been swept by a society that has reminded insensitive to the rights of the child.
That all hands must be at work to see to the protection of the rights of the Nigerian child is a fact that the society and the press as the watchdog can no more push aside, at least in the interest of good conscience and history.
Thank you for joining us today. I urge you to Think the CHILD…Think TODAY…Think the FUTURE… Do have an INSPIRED day.