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Not acceptable

•The rising tide of violence against children is worrisome

The evidence may be largely anecdotal, but it is sufficient to warrant the proposition that children now constitute probably the most abused segment of our society outside the prison system.  They are abused by parents, by guardians, and by adults seeking outlets for their pent-up frustrations.

The abuse takes many forms:  selling children to willing buyers, as if they were mere merchandise; labour that deprives children of their childhood and stunts their growth and development; labour that exposes them to danger and harm, as when they dart in and out of traffic hawking all manner of wares at the behest of parents and guardians, sexual molestation, hideous corporal punishment, and beyond that, punishment that can only be described as cruel and inhuman, bestial even.

This latter was the kind allegedly inflicted on 10-year-old Chimobi, in the Agunfoye area of Ikorodu, Lagos, by his guardian’s wife, identified as Gift Igwe.  Chimobi suffered extensive burns on his back and arms when, according to reports filed with the Office of the Public Defender, his guardian’s wife “set him ablaze.”

Chimobi’s offence?

He had misplaced his trousers.

Residents who heard Chimobi’s agonised cries rescued him and rushed him to a hospital, from where he was taken to the safer and more welcoming dwelling of a children’s home.

At his age, Chimobi should be in school. He isn’t. Neighbours reported that the orphaned child had been subjected to serial abuse since he was brought to Lagos from the village. Many of them, eager to see justice served, turned up in court to witness his guardian’s wife arraignment on a charge of assaulting and causing grievous harm to a child.

Unable to perfect bail in the sum of N500,000 and two sureties in the same amount, she is now being held in the Kirikiri Prisons, with her four-month-old baby. That any guardian, least of all a mother, would bring herself to be suspected of such barbarous conduct under any provocation whatsoever demands more than mere condemnation; it demands an examination of that person’s mental condition.

Tragically, this case is not unique. Similar incidents occur all too frequently all over the country, but only a few get reported. And of those reported, only a few are prosecuted. The abuse subsists despite the Child Rights Act, and in the face of a culture that enjoins us to treasure children and do them no harm.

The residents who rescued Chimobi from his ordeal and rushed him to hospital acted in the best African tradition. But perhaps if they had intervened earlier, Chimobi may have been spared the serial abuse they said he had suffered, and the situation may not have reached this hideous pass.

Residents of neighbourhoods where children suffer wanton abuse and neglect have an obligation to alert the authorities. So does civil society. That is what the larger interest and health of the community demands. Better to serve that interest than to protect an abusive guardian by keeping silent. To keep silent is to acquiesce in the abuse.

By placing Chimobi in a children’s home and entering a prosecution against the alleged abuser, the Lagos State Government has set good example for other jurisdictions. Given the scale of the problem, there is an urgent need to set up more homes for abused children in the country.

The law is on the side of children and those who seek to protect them. It should be invoked robustly. Spotty enforcement is no deterrence.

The post Not acceptable appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

This post was syndicated from The Nation Nigeria. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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