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


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