The African Child and the “Plague” of Silence

Every year, the 16th of June is set aside as “The Day of the African Child”.

The theme for the year 2020, “Access to Child-Friendly Justice in Africa” is timely and appropriate.

While we shouldn’t just pay lip service to the commemoration of the day, we need to begin to put our money where our mouth is!

How can we get justice when our children are silent?

How can we make progress when we are all silent?

Virtually all the cultures I know of, in Africa consider children as being irrelevant when it comes to critical decision making.

Our children are to be seen; not heard!

This plague of silence has continued to be perpetuated by a justice system that has refused to give a voice to the needs of the child.

The Child Rights Act was signed into law in Nigeria in 2003.

Due to our pseudo-federalism, states are not under any obligation to implement the law unless it is domesticated. For almost 2 decades since then, at least 10 states from the northern part of the country have not been motivated enough to domesticate the law. Among those states who have domesticated the law, very few have any structure on the ground for implementing the law.

While the law provides for the protection of the child, it also prescribes appropriate guidelines for the care and support for vulnerable children.  Within this act is the legal framework for national, state, local, community, and family matters as it relates to the best interest of our children. Why should we be foot-dragging about this issue?

Is there a child-friendly justice system in Africa?

Why are we plagued with silence on this issue?

The children are religiously, traditionally, and culturally silenced.

The family and the general community; our entire society are economically and knowledgeably silenced.

Our governments are politically silenced.

Indeed we are all plagued with silence!

The confusion of politics, the ambivalence of our “rulers”, and the disenchantment of the populace form the ingredients that brew the cocktail that has muted our children.

The way forward is for us to strive to know more about the rights of children.

We should use our knowledge rightly by using our diverse platforms to speak in defense of our children.

We need to allow our children to also have a voice in all that concerns them.

We need to challenge our government to fix the judicial system!

Our legislators must make the right laws and review such laws as the needs arise. Our courts must deliver justice promptly and fairly.

Pedophiles, child molesters, child traffickers, child abusers, etc. should no longer be allowed to evade the justice they deserve.

Otherwise, we will still be talking about this in a decade’s time.

May God bless and protect our children, and all those who seek a better life for them.

 

 

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Ola Ibigbami

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