•Prof. Ajanwachuku in scholarly lecture says Nigerian child at mercy of parents, law, others

 

From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo

 

•Ajanwachuku delivering the lecture

 

A professor of Child Rights Law, Michael Ajanwachuku, has blamed some parental activities, judicial processes and government’s insensitivity for the non-implementation of the rights of the Nigerian child.

In fact, he said that the existence of child rights in Nigeria was mere paperwork. According to him, the Child Rights Act and similar laws in the state had made provisions on what the government should do to provide children with their rights but, regrettably, nothing had been done in that regard.

In his inaugural lecture on the theme, “Rights of the Nigerian child, a legal skullduggery,” delivered at the ICT Hall of Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, on April 24, 2024, he described the rights of Nigerian child as legal deceit apparently because of the many factors impeding their implementation.

 

•Inaugural lecturer with guest

 

“It is the right of a Nigerian child to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health to be provided by the government but it is viewed that Nigerian government has not played the expected role.

“It is a known fact that Nigeria’s healthcare system is poorly developed,” he said.

He mentioned other impediments to include death of children due to insurgency, restraints by the Constitution, rights defeated by judicial process, death of parents, rights not readily ascertainable among others.

Ajanwachuku declared: “If from the examination it is found that the Nigerian child enjoys the rights, the making of the law would have been justified

“But if there is no such finding, then the existence of the law is non-existent in practical terms and its existence, therefore, a legal skullduggery.”

He said that the numerous rights of the Nigerian child under Customary Law are grouped into right to protection against harm, right to advancement in life, right to establishment of family and right to provision for burial expenses, while the English Law are right to protection against harm, right to development, right to survival and right to participation.

He explained that the lecture was aimed at examining the enjoyment of the rights by the Nigerian child using the nation as a case study, pointing out that the fact that there was no practical enjoyment of the rights made the law a legal skullduggery.

The don further condemned government’s inability to provide children with their entitlements as compulsory, including universal basic education that runs from primary to junior secondary school as well as free healthcare.

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He mentioned other factors mitigating against the rights to include child marriage, street hawking, absence of court with an exclusive jurisdiction to deal with matters that border on the provisions of the Act, absence of some institutional framework and specialized police unit.

“One may, however, state that while marriage to girl-child is rampant with Northern Nigeria Muslim communities, the practice is not restricted to those communities, it may not be common in other parts of the country but it exists.

“It exists in Ebonyi State, especially among the illiterate rural dwellers; the girl-mothers suffer the medical complication known as vesico vaginal fistula.

“This, however, accounted for why the wife of the second governor of Ebonyi State, Mrs. Josephine Elechi, opened a medical outfit for the repair of the females with the health problem.

“Therefore, without child-marriage, there would have been no medical complication, without the health challenge, there would have been no need for the government to spend money establishing the health facility for the repair, which would have been used to improve on the traditional already established and more generally used hospitals and centres,” he said.

The legal luminary also cited the case of Almajiri prevalent in Northern part of the country where parents and relatives do send their children and wards outside their homes for itinerant services with the mindset that the service would impact Qur’anic knowledge on such children.

“These children roam about the streets of wherever they find themselves begging for alms and foods as their means of sustenance, they have no homes where they retire at night but pass night wherever they find themselves.

“Some of these children die in the process while those who are not dead sometimes do not meet their parents and relatives anymore.

“Some of them leave home at such tender ages that they do not know their surnames, by the time they grow, they will adopt the first or surname of their Koranic teacher or adopt the name of the city where they grow up as their surname.

“This is an abuse, the Act has banned begging for alms and made it an offence punishable with 10-year imprisonment but in spite of the ban, Almajiri still exists performing their religious obligations which begging is an integral part of.

“Ardent worshippers hold tenaciously to their religious obligations, injunctions and tenets especially Muslim and more especially from Northern Nigeria, a typical Muslim faithful from the area will see the ban on begging for alms as an impossibility and infraction of his religion and the course of Allah, the ban is unacceptable to them and it is unlikely to be obeyed,” he explained.

Ajanwachuku mentioned the gunmen attack of December 24, 2023, at Bokkos and Barkin-Ladi Local Government Areas of Plateau State where over 200 people comprising adults and children were killed as big blow on the Nigeria child. Referencing the massacre, he insisted that the rights of the child as contained in the statutes had no practical value.

He suggested that government should live up to its responsibility by countering armed groups as the Boko Haram sect and gunmen whose activities are driving the beneficiaries of child rights to extinction. He also recommended abstinence from seeming connivance on the part of government.

He further advised that the ambit of locus standi to sue for and on behalf of a child be expanded to include anyone who is aggrieved by the breach of the right of the child.   

Concluding, the acclaimed scholar widely seen as an authentic voice for the ‘forgotten’ Nigerian child was emphatic that the Chid Rights Act had no effect on the targeted persons. He, therefore, called for constitutional amendment that will give proper attention and cover for the Nigerian child.

Governor Francis Nwifuru represented by the Commissioner for Tertiary Education, Prof. Omari Omaka, commended the celebrant for his integrity, hard work and uncompromising attitude.

“Whoever that gives Professor Ajanwachuku an assignment should go home and consider the job done. He cannot be bent no matter whose ox is gored and that is what endears him to everyone,” he said.    

In his remarks, Vice Chancellor of EBSU, Professor Chigozie Ogbu, who said that the event marked the peak of professorship, disclosed that the institution had recorded 15th inaugural lectures under his administration since 2018, beside two others slated for this month.

“By next month, this institution must have recorded 25 Inaugural Lectures since its establishment and I am urging other Professors to get to this climax of their careers.

“It gives satisfaction once it is done because it shows that the person merited his professorship and it is one of the things that some organizations consider in ranking universities and I am thanking everyone for supporting the event,” the VC said.

The institution’s immediate past Deputy Vice Chancellor of Administration, Prof. Happiness Oselebe, applauded the lecturer for the interesting topic and advised that all hands should be on deck in protecting the rights of children.


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