The Anambra State Government recently commemorated the 2017 Day of the African Child with the theme, "Accelerating Protection, Empowerment and Equal Rights for the African Child by 2030."
The event took place at the headquarters of the Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS) in Awka.
Addressing the mammoth crowd who thronged the venue of the event, the State Commissioner for Social Welfare, Children and Women’s Affairs, Dr. Victoria Chikwelu, said the state government had concluded plans to raid child hawkers who roamed the streets and motor parks selling wares during school hours.
She noted that children of school age who were sent out by their parents and guardians to hawk ended up becoming social misfits and deviants, thereby culminating into threats to society.
Chikwelu who was represented by the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Women’s Affairs, Dr. Azuka David Ofomata, stated that the state government would in no distant time embark on a massive clamp down on child hawkers anywhere in the state and put them in schools and rehabilitation centres to determine where they could be most suitable and useful to themselves and to society.
Ofomata also revealed that government would prosecute parents and guardians who indulged in child labour and molestation, stressing that child hawking was hazardous and inimical to the life of the child.
‘Such a child can be killed by a vehicle or kidnapped for rituals,’ Ofomata noted.
He said there were policies in place to guarantee the welfare and well-being of children in Anambra State, pointing out that the state governor had started giving employment to persons living with disabilities to prevent them from begging, as well as resigning themselves to fate.
Dr . Ibrahim Conteh, chief of UNICEF A field office, Enugu, noted that with the ratification of the Child's Right Law, UNICEF was working closely with the government to ensure that the laws were being implemented and made operational so that stakeholders would be familiar with the components of the law as well as ensure full implementation.
Conteh also said that UNICEF supported the Day of the African Child because it was identified by the African Union as a day set aside for the commemoration of what happened to children in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 where they staged a peaceful demonstration for fair treatment in terms of quality education, even though many of them were killed in the struggle.
The chief of the UNICEF A field office Enugu also stated that UNICEF and Anambra State had had long standing relationship in the area of children's welfare. Dr.Conteh said they partnered states across the federation, including Anambra State, to ensure that the rights of children were being realised, just as he posited that the organisation equally supported Anambra in the area of child protection, water and sanitation, education of children, as well as health and nutrition.
Meanwhile UNICEF WASH consultant in Anambra State, Mr. Clement Chigbo, observed that there were vacuums in the implementation of the rights of the African child. Chigbo said that the gaps manifested themselves in inadequacies in government policies and implementation, pointing out that the charter on the rights of the African Child had not been implemented by many states in Nigeria.
The UNICEF WASH consultant who recalled that since 2006, UNICEF and the government of Anambra State had partnered in the area of provision of portable water, especially in the rural communities, stressed the need for machinery to be set in motion to ensure the protection of children's rights.
A child protection expert and former director of child development in the State Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development, Sir Emeka Ejide, bemoaned the absence of institutions that served as detention centres for children who were in conflict with the law.