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October 1, What Does the Nigerian Child Celebrate?

As we celebrate the 57th  flag independence of our great nation, Nigeria, I think there is no better determinant of the state of our nation than the state of her precious children. According to  Dr. Nelson Mandela,‘there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’

Dr. Nelson Mandela was very right. And I think taking a careful look at the state of the precious Nigerian Child under this government and past governments since our independence scores our society very low.

Permit me to submit that in Nigeria, like many African countries, we only take mental notice of children and not actual notice.

Mental notice is never deliberate; it is an accidental affair, often authored by circumstances not within our control either by virtues of our ignorance or negligence. Actual notice speaks of conscious efforts of caregivers, aimed at achieving adequate care.

What is CARE in the context? It is to anticipate the needs and threats to a child and make adequate preparation to meet the needs and mitigate the threats before they arise.

The report on Violence Against Children in Nigeria of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), National Population Commission of Nigeria and supported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the findings from a National Survey in 2014 and launched in 2014 found that ‘there is a high prevalence of violence against children in Nigeria.’

The survey, which provides, for the first time, national estimates that describe the magnitude and nature of sexual, physical and emotional violence experienced by under-18 females and males in Nigeria  submits as follows:  approximately six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence; one in two children experience physical violence; one in four girls and one in ten boys experience sexual violence; one in six girls and one in five boys experience emotional violence.

It is also found that children are exposed to multiple forms of abuse, therefore ‘violence against children is rarely an isolated incident.’

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The report found that  ‘children are not disclosing violence and not seeking or receiving services.’ It is further disclosed that children are not disclosing abuses because they will not be believed. The disposition of children is a reflection of our culture of silence when it comes to addressing the issues of abuse, which children are exposed to.

In response to troubling findings of the survey, priority actions were developed to stem the ugly tide of the present situation of the precious Nigerian child. The lead priority action is establishment of system’s approach to the protection of our precious children.

Having been on the field for close to 20 years, pleading the cause of the Nigerian child, it is my conclusion that the foundation of every response must be enlightenment. Thus I say, ‘enlightenment is superior to enforcement,’ noting that both as primary and secondary caregivers, we treat children as we see them and we see them according to our dominant value system as a people.

I think the foregoing must form a critical part of our concern as we spare a thought for our precious children as we celebrate our 57th  independence.

While we must hope for the best for the precious Nigerian child and commend present efforts at preserving his/her present and future as we mark our flag independence, I wonder if I can really from my conscience, wish the Nigerian child happy independence. Here is my lamentation thereof:

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when a nation lags behind ‘fantastically’ in education, holding the world record as the country with the highest number of children out of school, 10.5 million, beating war-torn Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, just to mention a few?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when over 1 million children are out of the school and 1.4 million children are displaced in the north as a result of Boko Haram attacks?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when our precious children are used as suicide bombers?

Note that one in every five Boko Haram Suicide Bomber is a child, between 2014 and 2016 there were 40 suicide attacks involving children in the north-east and in 2015 alone 44 children were used as suicide bombers.

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How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when as a nation we shed the blood of our future, our precious children, when they are murdered in their thousands, many buried alive and orphaned by Boko Haram as over 20,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the insurgence?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when they are kidnapped in their hundreds without concrete efforts to rescue but only sensationalized noise both from the government and its agencies to score cheap political points and so-called activists to boost their dwindling image and social relevance fortune?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when Nigeria’s newborn death rate (neonatal mortality) is 523 per day, one of the highest in the world?

How do I wish our precious children, happy independencewhen more than a quarter of the estimated 1 million children who die under the age of 5 years annually in Nigeria die during the first 28 days of life?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when about 9 out of 10 newborn deaths are preventable?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when about 5.3 million children are born yearly in Nigeria, about 11,000 everyday, 1 million of these children die before age 5?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when every 10 minutes one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria, a total 53,000 per year, meaning about 800 women die in every 100,000 live births, making the precious children without mother’s care?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when most of us in the abundance of our ignorance call our precious children, who are denied of their basic rights like rights to life, education, health, shelter and all underprivileged or less privileged, when what they are denied of are their fundamental and birth rights and privileges?

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How do I wish our precious children, happy independence, when I know that no child lives in proxy for the other for the other, knowing that our commitment should be leaving no child out behind and leaving no one out?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when the handful who have what can be described as a good life have the neglected as a formidable threat to their existence?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when we are oblivious of the trite truth that there is no better way to measure the humanity of a people than how they treat their children?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when most of us, particularly the informed are not aware that in the words of Martin Luther King Jnr. that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ and we jealously plot a great future for our own precious children and we look another way concerning the unbearable sufferings but avoidable of many other precious children?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when even the anniversary that is set aside for them focuses more on pomp and pageantry and every other interest, including huge commercialization but the real issues affecting their precious lives hardly find their ways to the deserved front burner of discussions and actions?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when many of us, primary and secondary caregivers are not aware that in matters of Child Rights, Child Protection and Childhood Preservation, prevention is better than cure, therefore Enlightenment is Superior to Enforcement?

How do I wish our precious children happy independence, when as it is today the families, community and state are yet to accept that abject poverty is the greatest threat to the protection of our precious children and have no concrete plan for SOCIAL PROTECTION, which ILO began to propounded since 2014 as the number solution to seemingly insurmountable inequality in our world today, particularly as it affects our precious children?

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