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  • Name: DOMESTICATION OF INTERNATIONAL CHILD RIGHTS LAW IN NIGERIA, A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT 1999-2011
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  • Length: [69] Pages

 

CHAPTER ONE

1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
International law takes special interest concerning children worldwide. This is due to the fact that children are the most vulnerable and powerless members of the society dominated by adults. World leaders believe that children deserve adequate protection so that they can grow to preserve the human race. Most times, children are considered to be the future of any society. The establishment of legal and institutional frameworks were being put in place by world leaders in other to ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of the child.
In the antiquity, nobody gave special protection to children. In the middle age children were considered as small adults. In the middle of the 19th century, the idea appears in France to give children special protection, enabling the progressive development of “minors‟ rights”. Since 1881, French laws included the right for the children to be educated.
During the 1980s, many child rights activists claimed that, as children are human beings and the subjects of all human rights, they did not need a special human rights instrument devoted to them as a group. Yet it is clear from current histories of child rights that children are viewed as objects of rights in a discourse of welfare concern more often than they are recognised as subjects of rights. (Judith 2000) The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is innovative in making it clear that, with respect to international human rights law, children are active subjects. They not only require certain forms of protection in addition to the “normal” entitlements of human rights law, they also require special forms of protection because they are in a vulnerable position, both legally and developmentally. These entitlements include the right to have their opinion taken into consideration when adults take
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decisions on their behalf (Article 12), to express their views (Article 13) and to join or form associations to represent their own interests (Article 15).
The modern era of international human rights law can be said to begin with the establishment of the UN system after the 1939-1945 Second World War, specifically with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Declaration clearly established the principle that nations that are members of an intergovernmental body, such as the UN, can intervene in the domestic affairs of other states to ensure that citizens’ rights are respected. A number of other treaties followed the Universal Declaration, dealing with different groups of persons and rights. But rights are indivisible. The CRC is only conceivable, and can only be implemented, if it is seen in the context of the international human rights agenda in its entirety. In the Preamble to the Convention this is made clear through reference to preceding human rights instruments. Rights that are not spelt out in the CRC, but which applied to children before it was drafted and adopted, include consideration of their special needs and vulnerability in times of armed conflict, as well as protection against trafficking, exploitative work, torture and prostitution. (Judith, 2000).
Nevertheless, United Nations International Children‟s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was instrumental in promoting the widespread ratification of the UN Convention through organising the 1990 World Summit for Children. This meeting of 71 world leaders in New York was the largest ever meeting of heads of state and had the objective of obtaining their signatures to this new human rights document. In this respect it was supremely successful. It is part of the overall myth of the CRC (appearing to be a compulsory preface to any account — historical or otherwise) that no other piece of human rights law has come into force so rapidly, nor received quite so much public attention. (Judith, 2000)
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A second objective of the Summit was to ensure that children actually enjoy the rights provided. (Judith, 2000) The meeting ended with agreement on a Plan of Action that included twelve broad goals to be achieved before 2000. All signatories promised to develop national plans of action to this end, and to report on progress at five-year intervals. Yet it is clear that in this respect the Summit was unsuccessful. In some cases the narrowly conceived twelve Summit goals have obscured, or well-nigh obliterated, the much broader range of rights in the CRC. In others, national plans of action have been drawn up but not provided with a budget sufficient for implementation. Sometimes the only changes made are legal. In some cases, nothing has happened at all. As Belgian lawyer Eugeen Verhellen has pointed out, it often seems as if there is more concern to protect children’s rights than to protect children.
Children have not always been on the human rights agenda as a separate group. Indeed, the human rights agenda itself is a relatively recent historical phenomenon. The question of children’s rights was not an issue for the French Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1780. Children were regarded as a residual category of person, lacking full human rights. At that time European societies simply thought of children as the property of their parents, and not particularly valuable property at that. According to Blackstone’s 1758 legal commentaries in England, for instance, child abduction was not theft in the legal sense unless the child happened to be dressed. The thief was regarded as having stolen the clothes. Apart from that, child theft was tantamount to stealing a corpse. In the case of both a dead body and a live child, no legal person was involved. (Judith, 2000).
At the beginning of the 20th century, children‟s protection starts to be put in place, including protection in the medical, social and judicial fields. This kind of protection starts first in France and spreads across Europe afterwards.
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Since 1919, the international community, following the creation of The League of Nations (later to become the UN), starts to give some kind of importance to that concept and elaborates a Committee for child protection. The League of Nations adopts the Declaration of the Rights of the Child on September 16, 1924, which is the first international treaty concerning children‟s rights.
It was not until the late nineteenth century that nascent children‟s rights‟ protection movement countered the widely held view that children were mainly quasi-property and economic assets. In the United States, the Progressive movement challenged courts‟ reluctance to interfere in family matters, promoted broad child welfare reforms, and was successful in having laws passed to regulate child labor and provide for compulsory education. It also raised awareness of children‟s issues and established a juvenile court system. Another push for children‟s rights occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when children were viewed by some advocates as victims of discrimination or as an oppressed group. In the international context, “[t]he growth of children‟s rights in international and transnational law has been identified as a striking change in the post-war legal landscape. (Wendy, 2007)
Conversely, the notion that children have rights that need to be enforced and protected is a modern development. It was usually taken for granted that adults have the best interests of the child at heart and so there was no need to think of the rights of the child. Findings by UNICEF(1995) shows that all around the world, children are exploited as labourers and prostitutes, deprived of an education, denied adequate nutrition and health care and they therefore need help and protection from an adult world that carry out most of this abuses.(Ajomo & Okabgue, 1996).
The world conference on education for All (EFA) (1990), the World Conference on human rights (1993), the fourth conference on women (1995) and the millennium development goals
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(2000) are other international efforts taken. Measures for protection of dignity, equality and basic human rights for children started as early as the 19th century. Since then, children have become a constituency in their own right on whose behalf laws have been enacted providing for the protection against the abuse of parents and other adults, economic exploitation and social neglect.
At the regional level, the assembly of heads of state and government of the organization of African unity (OAU) adopted a declaration on the rights and welfare of the African child at its 16th ordinary session in 1979. In 1990, the summit of the heads of state of the OAU adopted a formal convention, the charter on the rights and the Welfare of the African Child to which Nigeria is a signatory. In 1992, African states adopted the Dakar consensus which recognizes the principle of first call and exhorts African countries to incorporate the goals of child survival, development and protection in their development programmes (OAU, 1992).
Nigeria, believing in protecting the best interests of the child, signed the UN Convention in March, 1991 and by 2003, the convention and the African charter were incorporated into domestic laws through the enactment of the Child‟s Right Act (CRA) on July 31, 2003. Since then, not less than 16 states have adopted the Act (Obiagwu 2009). Prior to the 2003 Act, Nigerian child protection law was defined by the Children and Young Person‟s Act (CYPA), which was revised later and incorporated into Nigeria‟s Federal Laws in 1958 (RCW 2005). The federal government has enacted a series of other laws, policies and plans of actions in various sectors geared towards the protection of children‟s rights. Some of these laws and policies have been enacted at the state levels.
The significance of the above global, regional and national efforts lays in the fact that they demonstrate the commitment of the international community and in particular the Nigerian government to the protection of the Rights of Child.
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The concern of this project is to examine the theoretical and empirical aspects of Child Rights Laws vis-a-vis the International Conventions that guides the Rights of Children in Nigeria. The prevalent of Child Rights Abuse in Nigeria and the consequence of such abuse on the Nigerian Child motivates this study. The study also seeks to examine the extent of the child‟s right law and its impact on Children‟s right in Nigeria.
The study is also intended to reveal the various factors militating against the Child Rights‟ law in Nigeria and proffer possible solutions.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The background information provided above shows that inspite of the global, regional and national efforts put in place for the protection of the right of child and also for the promotion of the right of the child, there is still an extensive violation of the rights of the child both globally and nationally .Violation of the rights of the child is a continuous case in Nigeria. In assessing the child‟s right law in Nigeria, the question to be addressed here include, how has the provisions of Child Right‟s Act in Nigeria and UN convention affected the fortunes of the Nigerian child in terms of the child‟s right to life, education, health, protection against economic exploitation and access to justice? This research seeks to identify causes of children rights violation and abuse and also recommend how these rights can be protected and promoted thus preparing the next generation of Nigerian leaders. It is also intended to examine whether the government of Nigeria have the political will, sincerity and commitment to enforce and implement the existing child‟s right law in Nigeria.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
In assessing the Domestication of International Child Rights Law in Nigeria during the period under focus, this study intends to ask the following relatable questions:
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– To what extent has the provisions of the UN convention and the child rights act been faithfully implemented in Nigeria?
– Are there any institutional mechanisms to ensure that these laws are enforced to their logical conclusions?
– Do Nigerian children enjoy all their fundamental rights as provided by the Child Rights Law?
– What can be considered to be the panacea for the effective promotion and protection of child rights in the country?
1.4 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The aims of this study are;
– To examine the extent in which UN convention and the Child Rights Act have been effectively implemented in Nigeria
– To discover whether there are institutional mechanisms for the enforcement of the Child Rights Law in Nigeria.
– To ascertain whether Nigerian children enjoy all their fundamental rights as provided by the Child Rights Law.
– To suggest possible solutions for the effective promotion and protection of Child Rights in Nigeria.
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS.
A hypothesis as described by Kepler (2000) is a prediction of what can be seen in the world of reality. Its formulation is significant in research work; functioning as a link between the
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world of theory and reality, showing the direction of data analysis and helping in the organisation of the research report. Hypothesis are assumptions made by the researcher in order to test the theoretical framework of the research through empirical analysis of data collected to enable him arrive at a reasonable conclusion as whether or not the hypothesis is valid or not.
Two types of hypothesis; Null Hypothesis (H0) and Alternate Hypothesis (H1) will be adopted for the problem under study.
1. H0 : UN convention and the existing provisions of Child Rights Act have not been effective in preventing Child Rights violation in Nigeria.
H1 : UN convention and the existing provisions of child rights Act have been effective in preventing child rights violation in Nigeria.
2. H0: The Nigerian government does not have the political will, sincerity and commitment to enforce the Child Rights Law in Nigeria.
H1: The Nigerian government does has the political will, sincerity and commitment to enforce the Child Rights Law in Nigeria.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study is significant in that it concerns a segment of the Nigerian population which if well-handled can make available necessary basis for fundamental transformation of the Nigerian society. This is due to the fact that the greatness of any country lies not only on the adult population but tactically on children that are to be trained to become future leaders of the nation. The study will also contribute to the analytical framework from which the
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government at all levels will formulate specific programmes and policies in the interest of the Nigerian child. The study will also create awareness on the part of parents and guardians, the community and the society at large.
1.7 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
1. The study is limited to the practice of child rights law in Nigeria between 1999 and 2013.
2. The study is also limited to the Nigerian experience due to lack of adequate finance to obtain all the logistical data from all relevant stake holders.
3. Time constraints: Time of survey is limited in terms of data collection. All sampled population could not meet the needed information within the stipulated period.
1.8 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The data collected for this study are basically primary and secondary data. They were sourced from questionnaires, interviews, journals, newspapers, and internet. The target population designed to cover the study will be confined to hundred (100) people of which may consist of the following persons: the prominent workers of National Human Rights Commission, Public Complains Commission and Ministry of Justice. It also includes the children population that are affected with the subject matter. The research technique that will be used in this study is the purposive sampling technique in which a particular group will be selected from the population to constitute the sample because this group is considered to cover the whole with reference to the characteristics in question. (Kumari 2008).
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1.9 DEFINITION OF MAJOR TERMS
It is important to clarify some concepts that will come up frequently in the study. These concepts need to be defined in order to eliminate conceptual confusion. They include the following: the child; child rights; and child abuse and labour.
Definition of the child
The word „child‟ has various definitions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 1) and the African charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Article II) defined a child as a person below the age of 18 years. Section 21 of the 2003 Child Rights Act of Nigeria provides that no person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage. This implies that under Nigerian law, a child is any person less than 18 years of age.
The concept of the Child Rights
The concept of the rights of the child is a recent development. It is borne out of the premise that children are the most vulnerable and powerless members of the society dominated by adults. UNICEF (1995) documented that there were well over a dozen countries in which conditions for children were far below the norms to be expected for their levels of economic development. An International Labour Organization (ILO) report recorded by Social Science Academy of Nigeria (2002) cited disquieting evidence of widespread physical, mental and sexual abuse of girls working as house helps in homes other than their own.
Child Labour and Abuse
The International Labour Organization (ILO) (1985) sees child labour as any work undertaken by children below 15years which endangers or interferes with the basic rights
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of children, such as free play, education, participation in other social and cultural activities; and generally activities necessary for normal physical, psychic, intellectual and emotional development. According to Yecho (2008), the concept “child labour” has no universally accepted definition. This is in view of the fact that what is considered child labour in one culture is seen as child training in another.

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