20 July 2013

The "29(4)(b)" Saga - The Child's Rights Act

What is the Child's Right Act of 2003?

It is a document which

"consolidates all laws relating to children into one single legislation, as well as specifying the duties and obligations of government, parents and other authorities, organizations and bodies"

It was passed into law in June 2000 and promulgated in September of the same year.

A Timeline of Child's Rights in Nigeria.  

1943 - The Children and Young People's Act (CYPA) was passed in to law by the British colonial government
1958 - The CYPA was revised and incorporated into the laws of Nigeria by Governor General James Wilson Robertson
1980 - The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPA) was ratified by the Government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari
1990 - The ACHPA was domesticated by the Military Government of General Ibrahim Babangida
1991 - The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) was ratified by the Military Government of General Ibrahim Babangida
2000 - African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRCW) was ratified by the Military Government of General Ibrahim Babangida
2003 - The Child's Rights Bill was passed into law in July
2003 - The Child's Rights Act (CRA)was promulgated into law in September by the government of Olusegun Obasanjo.

Part I Section 1 of the CRA says:

1. Best interest of a Child to be of paramount consideration in all actions

In every action concerning a child, whether undertaken by an individual, public or private body, institutions or service, court of law, or administrative or legislative authority,the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration.

Yay! CRA is Law, Why So Blue?

As at 2003, the CRA is law at the National level (yay!).  By virtue of the 1999 Constitution states have exclusive responsibility and jurisdiction to make laws relevant to their specific situations this includes issues of child rights protection.  What this means is just as the Federal Government promulgated the CRA into law at the National level, individual State Governments will need to promulgate the CRA into law in the various states in order for the CRA to apply to children in their states.  To date not all 36 states have promulgated the act into law (groan!).

Now this does not mean that children in those states are being treated inhumanly or have no rights.  They are after all human beings and citizens of Nigeria (by birth) and Chapter IV of the 1999 Constitution does cover them.  However as evidenced by what has transpired in the last week they need to be legally protected from abuse disguised as religious or cultural teachings.

Part III I find very instructive in light of Senator Yerima's statements on and since July 17, 2013.
Sections 21 through 23 says:

  1. Prohibition of child marriage.
  2. No person under the age of 18 years is capable of contracting a valid marriage, and accordingly a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
  3. Prohibition of child betrothal 
    1. No parent, guardian or any other person shall betroth a child to any person 
    2. A betrothal in contravention of subsection (1) of this section is null and void 
  4. Punishment for child marriage and betrothal A person:
    1. Who marries a child; or 
    2. to whom a child is betrothed; or 
    3. who promotes the marriage of a child; or 
    4. who betroths a child, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N500,000; or imprisonment for a term of five years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Hmm.  Sections 31 and 32 says:

  1. Unlawful sexual intercourse with a child, etc.
    1. No person shall have sexual intercourse with a child.
    2. A person who contravenes the provision of Subsection (1) of this section commits an offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
    3. Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, it is immaterial that‐  
      1. the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years; or
      2. the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child.
  2. Forms ofsexual abuse and exploitation
    1. A person who sexually abuses or sexually exploits a child in any manner not already mentioned under this Part of this Act commits an offence.
    2. A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) of this section is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of fourteen years.

The CRA is a very interesting document which I encourage everyone to read in its totality.  I was surprised to read Part III Section 24:

  1. Tattoos and skin marks
    1. No person shall tattoo or make a skin mark or cause any tattoo or skin mark to be made on a child.
    2. A person who tattoos or makes a skin mark on a child commits an offence under this Act and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five thousand naira or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or to both such fine and imprisonment.

I am reading this to mean tribal markings on children is a no-no.  Is there something in here that would make it unlawful for parents to have children in the car without proper restraints to mitigate injury in case of an accident? Well lookey here:

  1. Right to survival and development
  2. Every child has a right to survival and development.

We all know that having a child in our employ is also child abuse right? Awesome.  If you are in doubt please read Section 28 of the CRA

In Which States is the CRA Law?

The correct answer to this question should be all right? Wrong!  I have been unable to get my hands on a definitive list of states that have promulgated the CRA into law it looks like we have a total of 24 states from what I was able to glean from this 2007 UNICEF document and this Vanguard article dated June 29 2010. The states that have promulgated the CRA into law are as follows:

  1. Abia
  2. Akwa Ibom
  3. Anambra
  4. Bayelsa
  5. Benue
  6. Cross River
  7. Delta
  8. Eboniyi
  9. Edo
  10. Ekiti
  11. Imo
  12. Jigawa
  13. Kogi
  14. Kwara
  15. Lagos
  16. Nassarawa
  17. Niger
  18. Ogun
  19. Ondo
  20. Osun
  21. Oyo 
  22. Plateau
  23. Rivers
  24. Taraba

I have been unable to find any record of the following states having promulgated the CRA into law (FCT is also on this list):
  1. Abuja
  2. Adamawa
  3. Bauchi
  4. Borno
  5. Enugu
  6. Gombe
  7. Kaduna
  8. Kano
  9. Katsina
  10. Kebbi
  11. Sokoto
  12. Yobe
  13. Zamfara

The 29(4)(b) Vote - Postmortem.

I found a list of senators who (I assume) voted nay on the 2nd vote to strike 29(4)(b) from the constitution.  I did a quick summary of the states they represent as follows:
  1. Adamawa
  2. Bauchi
  3. Borno
  4. Edo
  5. Gombe
  6. Jigawa
  7. Kaduna
  8. Kano
  9. Katsina
  10. Kebbi
  11. Kwara
  12. Nasarawa
  13. Niger
  14. Ondo
  15. Sokoto
  16. Taraba
  17. Yobe
  18. Zamfara
I am surprised that Senators from Edo, Jigawa, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo and Taraba voted the way they did on the second vote especially as they represents states who have promulgated the CRA into law.  I am unclear though can a senator from a state where a certain law has been promulgated cast votes in the senate for constitutional amendments that will be at cross purposes with the law from his/her home state? I also wonder do these people with the word "Senator" appended to there names know what they are really doing in Abuja? The mandate isn't to chop money, its to represent the interest of your constituents who include children who have the right to live out their childhood without fear of their hustle being truncated by violence or disease or be violated and damaged by body parts belonging to depraved men and women under what ever guise.

I worry that the fact that Customary and Islamic laws defining things like marriage are validated without question in the Constitution, there are several loopholes for certain folks to fall through.  I don't know what the process is to amend the Constitution.  Is all it takes the Senate and House of Representatives agreeing with the required 2/3 majority?  Somehow I feel it wouldn't be that simple.  I also am curious to the timing of this whole thing, our people are especially skilled at creating complex money making schemes.

I feel the first thing to do is make sure CRA is the law at the State level.  If you are reading this and your state hasn't promulgated CRA get on the horn now and make some noise.  Let your State Assembly know that the CRA is of utmost importance and must be promulgated immediately.

The struggle continues


18 July 2013

The "29(4)(b)" Saga

I have been reading the back and forth on the vote in the Senate regarding Chapter III, Section 29, subsection 4, part (b) of the Nigerian Constitution. A quick search for "Nigerian Constitution" on Google yielded a couple of links: 

Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria (html)*
Constitution Of The Federal Republic Of Nigeria (pdf)

Unless both links host incorrect versions of the 1999 constitution, part (b) ALREADY EXISTS:

    1. Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
    2. The President shall cause the declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be registered and upon such registration, the person who made the declaration shall cease to be a citizen of Nigeria.
    3. The President may withhold the registration of any declaration made under subsection (1) of this section if - 
      1. the declaration is made during any war in which Nigeria is physically involved; or
      2. in his opinion, it is otherwise contrary to public policy.
    4. For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section. 
      1. "full age" means the age of eighteen years and above; 
      2. any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age. 

My confusion is this: what exactly was the vote yesterday, to remove 29(4)(b) or to retain it? Also 29(4)(b) relates to Citizenship. Does the definition of "full age" in section 29 have bearing over the definition of "full age" in other sections of the entire document?  If the answer to this question is yes then Houston we have a problem.  From Senator Yerima's argument it seems to me that the vote was to remove 29(4)(b). This means to me that prior to yesterdays proceedings "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age." holds true as far as the Nigerian constitution is concerned. This implies that up until, and after the vote which did not meet the 2/3 majority requirement, PEDOPHILIA IS LEGAL IN NIGERIA.

I have received several requests to sign a petition on change.org petitioning the UN to "Stop The Nigerian Senate From Making Under-Age Marriage The Law!" This makes no sense to me though as it would appear UNDER-AGE MARRIAGE IS ALREADY THE LAW IN NIGERIA! How else would Senator Yerima openly marry a 13 year old girl in 2009 and not be sitting in jail somewhere?

Senator Babafemi Ojudu of Ekiti Central Senatorial District has provided on his website details of what the vote was and how members of the Senate voted this has helped clarify some of my confusion as well as raised a rather important question: What other shocking things are enshrined in the current Nigerian Constitution?. I would like to applaud Senator Ojudu's sense of accountability to his constituency (this is how I chose to define this act), its like a breath of fresh air. Here is a link to Senator Ojudu's "expose":


We should encourage the Senators to continue on the right track, that is strike 29(4)(b) from the constitution like they were trying to do before Senator Yerima stirred up religious sentiment again provided that this section has relevance outside of 29(4)(b). Its the least they can do. From recent numbers published by The Economist we know they are well paid to do their jobs. VVF is a terrible thing and these poor girls are being violated in the name of religion and cast aside as soon as their bladders give in, pariahs due to no fault of theirs.

How do we encourage our Senators? By petitioning them directly and letting them know that we the people they represent will not stand for this continued victimization of the girl child in Nigeria no matter the guise under which such victimization is occurring.

*version available on the web as at 10/09/2011