The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Tuesday congratulated children in Borno state as the state governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, signed the Borno State Child Protection Bill into law on Monday.
In a release signed by UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, Mr Peter Hawkins, and made available to Blueprint Tuesday, UNICEF said, the development was a victory for Borno state children, including the recognition of a legal framework for their protection against recruitment and use by armed groups, child labour and sexual abuse, among other violations of their rights.
Governor Zulum signed the Borno State Child Protection Bill into law Monday, marking an end to years of efforts to provide a legal framework that recognises the rights of children in the state to education, health and protection from all forms of abuse.
With the Child Protection Bill signed into law, Borno becomes the 29th state in Nigeria to domesticate the Child Rights Act enacted by the Federal Government in 2003, the release revealed.
Just seven states, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Yobe, Kano and Zamfara states – are yet to domesticate the Act.
“Borno state has remained the epicentre of protracted armed conflict for more than 12 years. Over 300,000 children have been killed in Nigeria’s north-east, while over one million have been displaced.
“In Borno State, 330,389 children are out of school, according to the Universal Basic Education Commission. As with Adamawa and Yobe States, the conflict has also impacted essential health, nutrition and child protection services.
“Governor Zulum has done the right thing – and the children of Borno State are the big winners. I commend Governor Zulum, the Borno State House of Assembly and other stakeholders who worked tirelessly to domesticate the Child Rights Act in Borno State,’’ Peter Hawkins said.
Mr Hawkins said it expects that stakeholders will go on to enforce the rights of children as prescribed in the Borno state Child Protection Law.
“For too long, children in Borno State have suffered the consequences of protracted conflict. Children have died or been maimed from unexploded devices, been kidnapped and recruited and used by armed groups. Girls have been especially impacted, including by sexual abuse and violence. The Borno State Child Protection Law will offer these children hope that things can change and perpetrators held accountable.”
UNICEF therefore, called on other states in the north-east and indeed across the country to expedite action to domesticate and implement the Federal Child Rights Act.
It said it is unacceptable that “armed conflict, displacement, violence, poverty and other abuses continue to turn Nigerian children into direct and indirect victims of conflict and other human rights violations.’’