UNICEF And Child Right In Nigeria

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UNICEF And Child Right In Nigeria


Abstract


United Nations Children Fund is an international Institution that deals with the promotion and protection of the rights of children in times of peace and during emergency situations. Restrictively, this thesis aimed at studying the activities of UNICEF in the promotion and protection of the Rights of the child in Nigeria. The sources of information relied upon are, relevant books, statutes, judicial authorities, articles in Journal publications, newspapers, magazines, and conference and internet materials. The justification for these theses is that, despite the long years of UNICEF’s presence in Nigeria, the situation of the Nigerian child is still very poor. In addition, of recent, many crises have subjected children in Nigeria to untold hardship and reduced them to objects of sympathy, especially, the ongoing Boko Haram crisis in the North-Eastern part of the country where children are involved in calamities along with adults, but painfully, children being vulnerable and defenceless are exposed to all manners of hardship and suffering. Thus, in view of this, the objective of this thesis is to identify the activates of UNICEF that will promote, protect the rights of the child as well as alleviate the suffering of children in Emergency situations in Nigeria. Thus the finding of this research among others is that due to the mandate of UNICEF as an inter-governmental agency, the Fund, although an agency dedicated solely to children, ironically has limited interaction with children and thus lacks practical experience in dealing with children. In view of this, the research was concluded by recommending among others that UNICEF should encourage Child Participation in all its programs as well as initiate programs that will increase direct interaction with children.


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

It is generally known and accepted that children need special care and protection and are dependent upon the aid and assistance of adults, especially in the early years of their existence. In their early years, children depend on adults for their feeding, clothing, and indeed all other aspect of their existence.

Under International Human Rights Law, children are considered to be among the vulnerable group and therefore are disadvantaged and needs to be protected by the law. Thus there is no questioning the fact that children constitute the most vulnerable and powerless members of the society. However, the concept that children have specific rights deserving of enforcement and protection is a comparatively modern development. The popular assumption in times past was that most adults and parents in particular, had the best interests of the child at heart, there was thus no necessity to think in terms of children‘s right.

Recognition of children‘s rights grew out of the wider crusade for human rights, specifically those of women. Indeed, perceptions of the two groups were largely similar. In the 18th century, for example, both women and children were generally regarded as a form of property.

The United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF) is a Specialised Agency of the United Nation, devoted to the health and welfare of children. UNICEF is headquartered in New York and works with children in over 158 countries.

UNICEF originally began as a response to the right of children in the aftermath of World War II. Its mandate gradually broadened to include ongoing support for children in all parts of the world. Currently UNICEF is the leading advocate for children‘s rights, and works to overcome violence and discrimination against children.
Nigeria was one of the very first African countries where the United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF) established a programme of cooperation.

UNICEF‘s work for the survival, protection and development of Nigerian children has continued ever since. Today, UNICEF is still working in partnership with many stakeholders including children and families to achieve national and international goals instrumental in the fulfilment of children‘s right.


1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

UNICEF has been present in Nigeria for over six decades now. The organization has been involved in activities geared towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria. Despite the long years of UNICEF‘s active and continuous struggle to better the welfare of children in Nigeria, the Rights of the Nigerian child to Survival and Early Care; Basic Education; Nutrition; Freedom from Discrimination and other rights provided for by both International and Local Instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Rights Act remains only a dream for many Nigerian children. What then has UNICEF been doing specifically to improve the situation of the Nigerian Child? And to what extent has the efforts been effective in promoting and protecting the Right of the child in Nigeria.

In addition, many recent crises in Nigeria, especially the Boko Haram crisis has had a devastating effect on the Nigerian populace. The most affected group being children who are vulnerable and defenceless. The Boko Haram crisis has reduced many children in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria to objects of sympathy. Presently, it is estimated that there are about 2 million Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East and about 56 per cent of them being children. What steps has UNICEF taken to alleviate the suffering of the children in crisis situation especially in the Boko Haram affected areas of the North – East of Nigeria? And how effective has the intervention of UNICEF been in protecting the Rights of Children in emergency situations in
Nigeria?


1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to appraise the legal framework and the role of UNICEF in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria. Arising from the aim, the objectives of this study are as follows:

  1. To identify and examine the activities of UNICEF that promotes and protects the Rights of the Child in Nigeria.
  2. Examine the effectiveness of the activities of UNICEF in promoting and protecting the Rights of the Child in Nigeria in general and particularly in emergency situations.
  3. To offer suggestions on the ways that UNICEF can further its objective of promoting and protecting the rights of the child in Nigeria.

1.4 Justification

The justification which warrants research on the subject matter is the fact that despite efforts of UNICEF and the long years of activities directed towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria, many children in Nigeria are yet to enjoy basic rights such as right to survival, health, basic education, freedom from discrimination and freedom from all forms of physical and mental violence. In addition the many ethno-religions crises in Nigeria in recent times, especially the Boko Haram insurgency which is having a devastating effect on children who are defenceless, helpless and vulnerable provides a justification for a research on this area.

This research is further justified by the problems raised in the statement of Research

Problem and its relevance to law students, law lecturers and the general public.


1.5 Scope of the Study

This study covers the general evolution of UNICEF and the nature and scope of child rights in Nigeria. Restrictively it focuses on the role of UNICEF geared towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria. Also the research examines the activities of UNICEF in other jurisdictions to provide a basis for comparison and areas of improvement for Nigeria where the circumstances are similar.


1.6 Research Methodology

This work is based on the doctrinal method of research which is a research that is conducted mainly in libraries and the internet. References are made to statutes sand judicial Authorities as primary sources and books, articles in journal publications, newspapers, magazines and online materials as secondary sources. Facts gathered from both primary and secondary sources are analyzed and the findings as well as the conclusion of the researcher stated.


1.7 Literature Review

The effort made so far by UNICEF to safeguard the rights of children around the world has provoked much writings. It is worthy of note that UNICEF is very much involved in research and publication through its Innocenti Research Centre, Florentina, Italy. Thus there are good literatures on the role of UNICEF in promoting and protecting the rights of children in general and specifically in Nigeria. However most of these literatures deal with one aspect of the subject matter or another. Hence the writer consulted various works to bring about this work.

In the book The Rights of the Child in Nigeria, an overview of the Rights of the Child in Nigeria was provided. The traditional attitude towards children in Nigeria was also discussed. In addition the rights of children in Nigeria to education, health, child welfare, as well as issues of child labour child abuse and treatments of juvenile offenders were also examined. The activities and contribution of UNICEF were also highlighted, for example it is stated that; UNICEF noted:

In the poorest parts of the world, cuts in government spending and falls in family incomes have meant that‘ infant mortality has risen, malnutrition has increased, and schools and health clinics have been closed. The result is that the poorest and most vulnerable children have been the most exposed to the lash of debt and recession.

Gerison Lansdown wrote on promoting children‘s participation in Democratic Decision – Making. He examines the importance of children participation and the consequences of the failure of adults to listen to children. He makes a case for a commitment to respecting children‘s rights to be heard and the need to consolidate on practical lessons learned to date in working with children as partners. This work is quite restrictive in that it focuses only on the right of the child to be listened to and taken seriously. This research work examines a wide range and albeit more important rights of the child.

Stephen Harmer and Malia Robinson examined the collaborative efforts between UNICEF and Religious communities for the benefit of children. They emphasized the fact that faith communities have been and continue to be an indispensable partner in UNICEFs work to advance children‘s rights and enhance their well-being. They made a case for the prevention of misuse of religion in the violation of the rights of the child. This work although very beneficial is also very restrictive as it focuses only on the partnering of UNICEF with religious communities. The scope of this research is broader than UNICEFs partnership programmes and focuses mainly on UNICEF
activities in Nigeria.

Lois Jensen wrote on women and children‘s rights and sought to establish a connection between the two groups and the practical implications of considering them together. She asserts that it is the health and economic condition of a woman before a child is born that directly affects a child‘s prospects for survival and development.

Therefore protecting women‘s rights amounts to indirectly protecting the rights of children. The book is only useful in understanding the link between the rights of women and children. Other than this, it did not mention the role of UNICEF in protecting and promoting the rights of the child.

The book Children And Conflict In A Changing World which is a review of the landmark 1996 Michael study on the impacts of conflict on children, examines the changing nature of conflict and the consequences it has on children. Specifically the work made reference to internationalization of terrorism and the use of children as perpetrators or accomplices in terror acts and observes that the current counterterrorism measures has multiplied negative effect on the rights of the child. The book makes a case for altering response to terrorism in such a way that will not jeopardize the rights of the child. Although this book is very useful to this research especially as it relates to the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, it is however also restrictive. This research focuses both on the protection of the rights of the child in general of which protecting the rights of the child in emergency and conflict situation is only a part of.

In the book The Media and children‘s Rights, the role of media professionals in the promotion of the child is examined. It provides ideas for journalists and for those seeking to obtain media coverage about children‘s needs, problems, achievements and aspirations. It identifies storylines based on themes drawn from the Articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and provides check lists to help media professionals‘ measure the extent to which their own practice and those of the media industry, acknowledge children‘s rights. The usefulness of this book to this research is highly limited having focused solely on the role of media professionals and activist in promoting rights of the child.

The book Child safety online: Global Challenges and Strategies examined child abuse linked to information and communication technology as well as how to build a protective environment for children using internet. The book explored children‘s online behaviour, risk and vulnerability to harm, while documenting existing preventive and protective measures to combat their online abuse and exploitation. The book suggested a collective effort by policy makers, law enforcement agencies, social workers, teachers, parents and the private sector to systematically protect children. This book from the foregoing is only relevant in understanding the threat posed by the use of internet by children.

Dan O‘ Donnell highlighted the many ways which parliaments and their members around the world can promote the rights of children through laws, policies, advocacy and other means. He explained how parliaments and their members can gain a clearer understanding of what their contribution can be and the knowledge and tools they require to make that contribution. It goes further to touch on specific child protection issues such as birth registration and the rights to identity, children and armed conflict, violence and neglect, e.t.c. The book is restrictively useful to what has been mentioned only.

In the book, Beyond Child Labour; Affirming Rights, the effort of UNICEF in the prevention of child labour in highlighted. Specifically the book mentions the activities of UNICEF in the prevention of child labour in Bangladesh, Brazil, Nepal and Tanzania. The book focuses mainly on the role of UNICEF in the prevention of child labour in the four countries mentioned above is to that extent restrictive. The focus of this work is activities of UNICEF in Nigeria.
The paper titled Legislative Reform Related to the Convention on the Rights of the child in Diverse Legal Systems , explores and provided guidance on the role of legislation and regulations which may have a direct or indirect bearing on children and the promotion and protection of the rights of children in the countries of Armenia, Barbados and Ghana. The paper canvassed for law reform in favour of children with particular emphasis in the rights contained in the convention on the Rights of the Child. The paper is limited to the three countries mentioned above and therefore is not entirely useful to this research.

In the work, Promoting the Rights of children with Disabilities, the researchers focused particularly on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities. They opined that the latter legal instrument opens a new era in securing the rights of children with disabilities and their families. They suggested that Governments should develop a national plan for action framed by the relevant provisions of the CRC and CRPD specifying measurable targets, evaluation indicators and timetable and should be monitored accordingly. The book is restrictive only to children with disabilities while the scope of this research work encompasses children with and without disabilities.

In the book, Introduction to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law a lot of issues concerning the human rights was discussed. However, the relevant part of the book is in chapter six where the author discussed the
Protection of Children‘s Rights in International Human Rights and Humanitarian Laws. He discussed the International Instruments on the Administration of Juvenile Justice, Children‘s Rights on Arrest, Children‘s Rights on detention as well as Protection of Children‘s Rights in International Humanitarian Law. He stated that the aim of Juvenile Justice System is to enhance the well-being of the juvenile and to ensure that any reaction to juvenile offenders is proportionate to the circumstance of the juvenile and the offence.

Maggie Black in her book ―the children and the nations‖ traces the origin and development of UNICEF. She traced the evolution of UNICEF from the events that led to the first and second world wars ad how it culminated finally in the formation of UNICEF. The founding fathers of UNICEF were discussed extensively. In addition, Maggie Black described all the early development in the life of UNICEF in an admirable manner.

The book is divided into five distinct parts each of which deals in chronological order with a particular period in UNICEF‘s life. This arrangement has the advantage of showing clearly how the organisation has adjusted itself successfully to the constant changing political forces since the Second World War.

Prof Javaid Rehman writing on International Human Rights law discussed the Right of the Child in his book. An overview of international instruments on the rights of the child was provided I the book. He analysed the convention on the Rights of the Child focusing on he substantive provision and protocols to the convention on the rights of the child. He also highlighted the provisions of some regional initiatives in protecting the rights of children.

The writer asserted that violation of the rights of the child is a common occurrence in many parts of the world. These violations range from for time, cruel, in human and degrading treatment etc. The book is relevant to this research to the extent that it helps in understanding the provisions of some child protection instruments. Other than this, the work did not state the effort of any particular organisation towards protecting the rights of the child by the instruments discussed in the book as we intend to do in this research work.

Andrew Bainham in his book gave a background and sources of children law. The book deals generally with all aspects of law relating to children. The most important part of the book in relation to this work is that the book traces the origin of children‘s rights in international law. It specifically related the evolution of International Children‘s Rights movement. Another important aspect of the book is the commentary it provided on relevant international and regional instruments relating to children.

The usefulness of the book is limited to the fact that most of the discourse on ital areas of children law is based on the law in England, the writer himself being a lecturer in law at the University of Cambridge. The book is however very much of relevance in understanding laws relating to children.

In the work ‗Protecting the Rights of Children in Conflict with Law‘ the issues of juveniles justice was addressed. The book discussed how juvenile justice fits within the mandate of UNICEF. It is stated in this work that UNICEF believes that jails and detention should be a last resort for children in conflict with the law.

In the book, the effort of UNICEF in the legal protection for children in conflict with the law is highlighted. The contributors explained that UNICEF supported the creation of a children protection unit within the Bar Association. UNICEF was also said to provide training to the child protection unit and facilitates networking and training with other relevant NGO‘s and government agencies.

Thus this work is very useful in the conduct of this study. The problem however is that it is effort of UNICEF in protecting the children who are in conflict with the law. The scope of this work goes beyond protecting children in conflict with the law, it touches on various aspect of child rights.

Alemika Emily in the paper titled ‗legal framework for the Child Rights in Nigeria‘ discusses the various definition of a child as well as the historical development of the laws relating to the child and further examines the Child Rights Act 2003 and the challenges of enforcement. She submitted that today, child rights advocacy has moved beyond the simple question of protection to also embrace an element of self determination on the part of the child to the extent that children are granted a degree of autonomy in the enjoyment of their right.

Nwokocha writing on ‗child and contemporary forms of slavery in Nigeria‘ examines the meaning of a child, slavery, the relationship between slavery and the law and the slave-like experience of the Nigerian child. He explains the various forms child slavery in Nigeria such s child labour, debt bondage, sale of children, servile forms of marriage and trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation.

The writer opines that in all the above instances mentioned, the child victims find themselves in situations akin to slavery. He submitted that their lot lies in being subjected to physical and mental violence, to torture cruel and in human and degrading treatment or punishment as well as other forms of abuse including sexual abuse and use of the child in some cases in criminal activities including illicit production of and trafficking in drugs and any other form of exploitation prejudicial to the child‘s welfare.

Umar Alkali in the article ‗reflection on Child‘s Right to Education and Dignity under the Child‘s Right Act 2003‘ provided an appraisal to the Right to Education of the child as contained in the Child‘s Right Act 2003. He discussed extensively the components of the Right to Education of the Child in Nigeria.

He observes that the provision of the Child‘s Right Act on Education is not adequate to guarantee the right to education due to lack of clear explanation on some important issues for example the meaning of the term ―free‖. He suggested that a special legislation on the child‘s right to education be enacted which will be broadly based on ideas incorporated in Indian Legislation called the Right of Children to free and Compulsory Education Act 2009.
In the article ―An Appraisal of Child‘s Right to Life and Health under the Child‘s Right Act 2003‘, the right to survival and development of the Child is examined in some details. The writer explained the meaning of right to health and examines the provision on the right to health of the child in the Child Rights Act 2003. He identified malnutrition, harmful traditional practices, lack of access to health facilities as well as the high cost of medical care as some of the constraints to realising child‘s right to health in Nigeria.

Umar Alkali in ‗An X-Ray of the Conflicts Between the Child‘s Right Act 2003 and Islamic Law on Child Marriage and Legitimacy‘ observes that the apparent contradiction between the Child‘s Right Act and Islamic Law is not surprising because the origin of the Act lies in conventions and treaties that are designed by people who are ignorant of Islamic law. He concluded that it is not all the provision of the Act that are in conflict with Islamic law rather some of the provisions of the Act reiterate some valid position of Islamic law relating to the right of children.


1.8 Organizational Layout

  • Chapter one discusses the background of the study, statement of research problem, justification, aims and objective of study, methodology, scope of the study, literature review and organizational layout of the thesis.
  • Chapter two examines the formation, structure and mandate of UNICEF. It examines the origin and development of UNICEF, the structure and organisation of UNICEF, mandate objectives of UNICEF, principal operating units of UNICEF and conference participation.
  • Chapter three discusses the nature and scope of child rights. It provides the meaning of a child, the meaning of child rights, historical background of child rights and the legal framework for the protection of the rights of a child in international law.
  • Chapter four focuses on the role of UNICEF in promotion and protection of the rights if the child in Nigeria, activities of UNICEF in Nigeria for promotion and protection of rights of the child such as survival and early child care, basic education, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection and participation, planning and communication, HIV/AIDS, emergencies and publications.
  • Chapter five concludes the study with a view to providing summary, findings and recommendations to the problem and challenges identified in the study so as to enhance the performance of UNICEF in its quest to protect and promote rights of children.

Chapter Five


Summary and Conclusion

5.1 Summary

Chapter one discusses the background to the study, statement of research problem, justification, aims and objective of study, methodology, scope of the study, literature review and organizational layout of the study.

Chapter two examines the formation, structure and mandate of UNICEF. It traces the origin and evolution of UNICEF highlighting the major development stages that UNICEF went through to what it is today. The early activities of UNICEF was discussed in some details as well as the changing that occurred in the mandate of the organisation from providing relief to children who are victims of war to the broadening of its mandate to include long term effort to children in poor countries to the current activities of the organisation which are geared towards the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Chapter three discusses the nature and scope of child rights, examines the meaning, origin and development of child right and discussed the legal framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria. It discusses the various International, Regional and National instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the AU Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child, Child Rights Act etc. The provisions of these instruments were examined and their implication pointed out.

Chapter four focused on the role of UNICEF in promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria, activities of UNICEF in Nigeria for promotion and protection of rights of the child such as survival and early child care, basic education, water, sanitation and hygiene, protection and participation, planning and communication, HIV/AIDS, emergencies and publications. This chapter also examined the activities of UNICEF in other jurisdiction which provided a basis for comparison for the work of UNICEF in Nigeria

Chapter five concludes the study with a summary, findings, recommendations to the problem and challenges identified in the study so as to enhance the performance of UNICEF in its quest to protect and promote rights of children and ended with a conclusion.


5.2 Findings

The following are some of the findings of this work:

  1. Due to the mandate of UNICEF as an inter-governmental agency, the Fund, although an agency dedicated solely to children, ironically has limited interaction with children and thus lacks practical experience in dealing with children.
  2. Most of the activities of UNICEF in Nigeria examined were in the form of providing support to already existing child oriented programs. Thus the Fund lacks direct intervention programs; hence sometimes the exact involvement of the Fund in some programs is obscure.
  3. Religious Communities are indispensable partners to the work of UNICEF. Unfortunately UNICEF in Nigeria has not benefited much from partnership with this group.
  4. Some programs of UNICEF examined are limited to comparatively very few areas and thus in such programs UNICEF‘s presence in Nigeria is almost not felt.
  5. There are still religious and cultural beliefs and practices in some parts of Nigeria that is hindering the realization of the rights of the child.
  6. Unavailability of funds needed to execute the programs of UNICEF is a major reason why the Fund has had limited successes especially in alleviating the plight of children in emergency situation

5.3 Recommendations

The following are suggestions that will help in the realisation of Child Rights in Nigeria:

  1. UNICEF should encourage Child Participation in all its programs as well as initiate programs that will increase direct interaction with children. This will give the staff of the Fund first-hand knowledge about children.
  2. UNICEF in Nigeria should strengthen collaboration and partnership with prominent indigenous religious leaders by engaging these leaders in meaningful and open discussion to identify common ground and maximize advantage
  3. UNICEF should make conscious effort to expand the area of coverage of its major programs taking into consideration the size and population of Nigeria.
  4. The Fund should in collaboration with relevant stakeholders engage in aggressive campaign to clear the air regarding the fears about polio vaccine and other life saving child intervention programs.
  5. UNICEF should partner with relevant stakeholders to find alternative sources of fund to augment what the Fund currently has, especially to help the Fund to execute its program in the states devastated by the Boko
    Haram insurgency as some of the Fund‘s program in the North East remains largely unfunded.

5.4 Conclusion

It is clear that although UNICEF has had some measure of success in some of its work towards protecting and promoting the rights of the child in Nigeria, the Fund still has much work to do to justify its existence in Nigeria


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