From Mfon Ekefre, Uyo
The increasing number of school-age children still hawking during school hours in the streets in most cities of the country has become a source of worry to the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), prompting it to call on states to domesticate the Child Rights Act (CRA) and ensure its implementation by relevant government agencies.
Also, the NHRC has urged states that had domesticated the law should to ensure that the relevant agencies implement such laws to the letter.
National Human Rights Coordinator in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Tony Iji, observed that with the large number of school-age children hawking during school hours, indicated that the Child Rights Act was not being implemented.
He said the Child Rights Act is supposed to protect children from all forms of abuse, including not having access to education.
“As a commission, our role is to let people know their rights and place them in a position to demand for the rights where they are infringed upon. In the case of children and women who are vulnerable, we take steps within the act establishing the commissions to ensure their rights are fully implemented.”
The Coordinator urged the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare in the state to take practical steps to ensure that children of school age were not sent out to hawk during school hours. “They should be sent to school, it is their right,” the coordinator said,
Iji maintained that it is an offence for any parent or care giver to stop a child from attending school for any reason.
He also advocated the immediate resuscitation of the Child Rights Implementation Committee at the state and local government levels, stressing that “the government should not allow any person or group of persons to violate the rights of children because our children are future leaders of tomorrow.”
The commission, he maintained, will continue to partner the media in creating awareness on the rights of Nigerians which must be protected in consonance with the Universal Declaration on the rights of persons.
“We will continue to let the people know that it is an offence to have carnal knowledge of girls under 18 years and also an offence to marry a girl under 18 years. In these two instances, whether the girl agrees or not does not free the suspect.” he said
As a result of the vulnerability of children and women, the coordinator explained that the commission under the Act establishing it can enforce compliance for the restoration of rights that were denied, and would continue to challenge any infringement on the rights of these classes of citizens.
He said: “Upon receiving a complaint through our Complaint Treatment Mechanism (CTM), we can invite a person for questioning and if he or she fails to come, under the new act, he is liable to a prison term of 6 months or N100,000 fine.
In Akwa Ibom, Iji said widows whose deceased husbands’ property were taken by relatives or girl-children denied right of property have had their properties retrieved from those who took them and return to the widows and girl-children as the case may be.
He therefore enjoined the citizens “to know, seek and demand for their rights which are inalienable, so that they can enjoy the total package of being free born Nigerians.”
From Mfon Ekefre, Uyo