Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act in 2003. This groundbreaking law incorporated the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and, for the first time, provided a comprehensive framework for preventing and responding to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of children. A decade later 23 out of 36 States had adopted this law.
In practice, children are at risk of multiple violations of their rights, including violence, trafficking, exploitative labour, child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation/Circumcision (FGM/C).
Over 17.5 million children can be categorized as orphaned and vulnerable. Large numbers of children, including some as young as five, flee poverty, abuse and family breakdown, and end up on the streets. Children living and working on the streets are more prone to illnesses, malnourishment, accidents, drug abuse, arrest, harassment and trafficking. Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for domestic service, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour. As many as a quarter of Nigeria’s children aged 5-14 are involved in child labour.
In northern Nigeria, many of the street children are Almajiri - young children sent out from their homes to receive a traditional Koranic education, but whose teachers often make them beg or carry out menial jobs.
Negative social norms continue to impact children. Child marriage is highly prevalent, mostly in the northern states. Despite legislation and policies prohibiting female genital mutilation, or cutting (FGM/C) 27 per cent of females in Nigeria have been subjected to this practice, while in a number of southern states FGM/C has been carried out on over 70 per cent of females.
Over 380,000 children have been displaced by the insurgency in the north eastern states. Many children have been killed, maimed and abducted. There are also reports that children have been detained as a result of counter-terrorism operations.
Birth registration is an essential component of children’s rights to existence, identity and protection and is critical to achieving national progress in the area of child protection. Yet, according to the 2013 Nigeria DHS, only 57 percent of under-5s are registered.