From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

As the world commemorates the 2024 International Day for Street Children, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labour (NACTAL) Nigeria, has said seven million children have been estimated to be on the streets in the country.

National President of NACTAL Nigeria, Abdulganiyu Abubakar, who stated this in a statement made available to newsmen on Friday, advocated an “End to Streetism” in Nigeria.

He said: “Today is the International Day for Street Children with the theme ‘Belonging’ aimed at fostering a sense of belonging for street-connected children within their communities, countries and cultures, while also acknowledging the strength and resilience of millions of children connected to the street around the world.

“One would ordinarily wonder why there should be children who practically belong to the street with no hope of a better future.  Almost everywhere in Nigeria, children are seen on the streets, either hawking or begging for alms for survival.

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“While some have families to return to at the end of the day, others take shelter under the bridges, mechanic shops and in shanties across the cities. These children are exposed to high risks social behaviour, such as drug abuse, drug peddling, stealing and thuggery. They could also be easily exploited by traffickers for child prostitution, forced labour, organ harvest, and even used for ritual purposes.

“It is estimated that about seven million children belong to the street in Nigeria; the third highest in the world.  It is totally heartbreaking that this number keeps increasing due to family dysfunction, including poor parenting, low family income, loss of bread winners, violence against children, conflict, poverty and the outright absence of social protection services to support vulnerable children and their families.”

Abubakar warned: “Streetism is a crime against children and a gross violation of their rights to dignity of persons. Every child belongs to the family and not to the street. The government must be committed to making child rights count for the Nigerian Child.

“Vulnerable families must be supported with decent work that would enable them earn good income to take care of their children, while children must have access to free, quality and compulsory basic education, health and medical care, as well as age appropriate skills and empowerment for improved quality of life.”