By EricJames Ochigbo/Femi Ogunshola
Abuja, Nov. 3, 2020 The House of Representatives on Tuesday began the process of eradicating child destitution and child rights violations in the country with a public hearing to harvest stakeholders’ contributions for the process.
The event, which held in Abuja, was carried out by the House Committee on Poverty Alleviation.
The hearing was on the motion, “Need to Eradicate Child Destitution and Remove Beggars from Nigerian Streets through Provision of Standardised Education System and Improved Livelihood”.
Declaring the event open, the Speaker of the house, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, recalled that in 2003, the Child Rights Act was assented to by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
The speaker, however, said that unfortunately, 17 years later some 11 states had yet to enact the law to protect children in the states.
According to him, the Child Rights Act is the basis upon which the Nigerian child ought to be protected and its implementation meant a lot to the future of the Nigerian state.
Gbajabiamila said that in addition to the Child Rights Act, the Universal Basic Education Act was also to make provision for compulsory, free universal basic education for all children
of primary and junior secondary school age in the country.
The lawmaker said that the Act further sought to provide punishment for parents who failed to comply with its provisions.
“It is for the reason of ensuring improved welfare and acting in the best interest of the Nigerian child that this motion was considered by the House in plenary.
“And, thereafter, the motion was referred to the Standing Committee on Poverty Alleviation for today’s public hearing.
“This hearing, therefore, seeks to obtain and aggregate submissions from various stakeholders to assist the Legislature foster ways of protecting the rights of the child to education, basic needs and overall access to all they need to have a good life.
“The notion, canvassed by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) that about 13.2 million Nigerian children are out of school, is no doubt worrisome.
“It presents a clear picture of the 21st and 22nd Century Nigeria where a large part of the population or labour force may not be employable,” he said.
Gbajabiamila added that he was positive that the discussions that would ensue would be rich and contribute immensely in assisting the Legislature to intervene adequately.
He enjoined all the participants to consider the issue of child destitution as one that required urgent steps.
According to the speaker, it is like a keg of gun powder waiting to explode; it requires urgent steps to tackle the obvious menace.
“At the end of the day, it is expected that we shall all come to consensus as to where we need to take further actions that will see us embracing those decisions that are in the
best interests of the child,” the speaker said.
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Abdulahi Salem (APC- Sokoto), said that the public hearing was organised to further consider the plight of the street child.
He said that the hearing was organised in fulfilment of the legislative procedure that was required to assist in taking far-reaching and adequate resolutions on the issue of child destitution and street begging.
According to Salem, there is no gainsaying the fact that the twin issues of child destitution and street begging are those that have come to stare us right in the face today.
“This means that the quicker we find solutions to these problems, the better for our society.
“The fact that in addition to the legislative interventions taken to address these issues, this motion is coming at a time when it has become imperative to enforce all statutory provisions concerning the protection of the Nigerian child, including poverty reduction strategies.
“l thank the mover of the motion and pledge on behalf of my colleagues to restate our commitment toward poverty alleviation in the country,” he said.
Mr Salam Abdulrazak, Director, Community Development Sources and Special Projects, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), recommended Agro-training for the destitute.
He said that such training would go a long way to change the narrative and keep the destitute informed, while also providing education for them.
He said that the Federal and state governments could collaborate to provide land for the destitute to be engaged productively.
Abdulrazak noted that the NYSC was in a good position to implement such a programme as it was present in all local government areas with corps members to do the job.
Representatives of the National Bureau of Statistics, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), UBEC, and Alleviation Advocacy and Justice Institute participated.