The National Human Rights Commission has expressed deep concern over rising cases of kidnapping of school children in different parts of the country particularly in the northern part where a staggering number of this vulnerable group has been forcefully whisked away to unknown destinations with no strategies for safe return in sight.
Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq. expressed this concern while reacting to UNICEF statistics that 950 children have been kidnapped from December 2020 to date noting that the above figure is an indication that a lot of things have gone wrong with the security system which is supposed to take proactive and drastic measures to curb the festering criminalities including child kidnappings.
Accordingly, Ojukwu lamented over the recent kidnappings of scores of children in an Islamic School in Niger state, the more recent abduction of many students at a Baptist School in Kaduna as well as kidnapping of new born babies and medical personnel in a hospital in same state.
In the words of the Human Rights Chief: "children are a heritage from God, the government in collaboration with other stakeholders ought to rise up to the occasion to protect them by giving a marching order to all the relevant security agencies to explore all available intelligence and strategies to ensure that kidnapping is halted in Nigeria and all the children in the kidnap den are rescued and given psychosocial support before reuniting them with their families".
This trend if unchecked will worsen the already poor school enrollment in Northern Nigeria, he said.
The Executive Secretary used the opportunity to reiterate the need for the domestication of the Child's Rights Act 2003 in the remaining 11 out of the 36 states of the federation, saying that "the domestication and subsequent implementation of the Act hold the key to effective child rights protection".
The NHRC Scribe is therefore calling on the affected states in Nigeria to liaise with the relevant stakeholders, including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to push for a speedy domestication of the Child's Rights Act in order to forestall further violations of the rights of children under their jurisdiction.
The Executive Secretary further stated that the commission had already put some institutional measures in place to promote, protect and enforce the rights of every child in Nigeria by establishing the department of Women and Children to comprehensively maintain a template for an effective intervention in the complaints and issues affecting children.
It will be recalled that during the 2020 COVID 19 lockdown, the Commission had issued an advisory on Almajiri children, which, for the first time, presented a document guiding comprehensive protection for Almajiri children, involving reunification, reintegration, eduction and empowerment of all affected Almajiri children.
While urging the government to prioritize child rights budgeting, the NHRC Boss said such a measure will go a long way in facilitating the implementation of the Child's Rights Act, which he noted cannot be fully realized without adequate budgetary provisions.