The recent disclosure by the Chief Field Officer of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Bauchi, Bhanu Pathak, that Nigeria loses an estimated N1.42 trillion to violence against children yearly should serve as a clarion call on the nation’s policy makers.
An annual loss of N1.42 trillion for a comatose economy as well as putting children, who are the nation’s future, at the risk of extinction is tantamount to a double jeopardy. This is quite despicable and condemnable.
Pathak, who was represented by the child specialist, Ladi Alabi, stated this penultimate Wednesday in Jos while speaking at the launch of the report on financial benchmark and economic burden of violence against children in Nigeria for Gombe and Plateau states.
He said 60 per cent of Nigerian children suffered from violence, physical, emotional or sexual violence and out of the number, 50 per cent suffered from physical violence.
He said: “52 per cent of boys and 50 per cent of girls in Nigeria are physical violence victims prior to 18 years of age. On average, physical violence against children costs Nigeria N1.008 billion, 11 per cent of boys and 25 per cent of girls are victims of sexual violence which cost Nigeria N307 billion and the country also loses N91 billion to emotional violence which has 20 per cent of boys and17 per cent girls.”
Pathak stated that “there is huge financial loss from the cumulative loss of earnings due to loss of productivity, stemming from suffering associated with different degrees of violence against children over time.”
He said the launch of the two reports afforded UNICEF the opportunity to know first-hand, what it is putting into child protection as well as the high economic cost of violence against children in Nigeria.
“As part of a wake-up call, President Muhammadu Buhari on September 2015, declared a national campaign to end violence against children by the year 2030. Impressively, both Plateau and Gombe states responded with state launches in 2016 and 2017, respectively,” Pathak said.
Also speaking, Gombe state Statistician General Muhammad Gidado said: “The issue of ending violence against children is a collective responsibility that all must stand against. The reason for the increase of the problem is because parents in Nigeria are refusing to be parents and do the needful.”
While commending Katsina state government for taking steps towards ensuring the review of (tsangaya) almajiri schools, the statistician said violence against children cannot be addressed when children roamed the streets as almajiri.
“Findings have revealed that about 41 per cent of Nigeria’s populations are children, out of which about 50 per cent or six in every 10 suffer one form of violence or another. If we must change this tide, parents sending their children out as almajiri must be forced to ensure they provide them with accommodation, feeding as well as clothing,” Gidado said.
UNICEF in a recent report said abuse in all its forms are a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help. Six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence – one in four girls and 10 per cent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. Of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of a 100 received any form of support.
The drivers of violence against children (VAC) are rooted in social norms, including around the use of violent discipline, violence against women and community beliefs about witchcraft, all of which increase children’s vulnerability.
According to the report, Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities.
Only 30 per cent of children under five years were registered at birth. Besides being a ‘first right’ of any child, improved birth registration is critical for national planning and governance functions, and serves as a foundation for achieving progress in wider child protection areas and the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals.
It is instructive that a total of 894 children, including 106 girls, were released from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east, as part of UNICEF’s commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children.
The CJTF is a local militia that helps the Nigerian security forces in the fight against insurgency in North-east Nigeria. It was formed in 2013, with the aim of protecting communities from attack.
It is unfortunate that despite a plethora of laws protecting the rights of children such as the Geneva Convention and the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child, which has been domesticated in Nigeria as the Child Rights Act (CRA) 2003, violence is still being perpetrated against a swathe of Nigerian children with impunity.
We, therefore, call for closer collaboration of all stakeholders in the Nigeria project including the nation’s development partners with a view to strengthening extant legislation on the rights of the child as well ensuring the stringent enforcement of these laws. Nigeria can no longer afford to condone the extermination of its future, which the children represent.