A group of NGOs working on the Niger Delta Child Rights Watch Project has commended the Cross River State Family Court for issuing their first ever judgement in a child rights abuse case. In a statement released today in Lagos, the spokesperson for the group, Dr Emilie Secker of Stepping Stones Nigeria, said that this was a truly historic moment and it sent a clear message that Cross River was leading the way in Nigeria regarding the protection of child rights and the rule of law.
Dr Secker explained that the case involved a 12 year old girl who was burnt with a hot knife by her aunty, leaving permanent scars. The girl was also regularly beaten and sent out to hawk goods on the street. A local NGO, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRC) tried to work with the aunty to help her mend her ways, but their good efforts were refused and she continued to mistreat the girl. At this point the NGO had to step in and report the matter to the police. The case was charged to court immediately and it was heard in the new family court in Calabar, bringing a prosecution against the aunty for grievous bodily harm. The woman was sentenced to one year imprisonment or a fine of N50,000.
Madeleine Bridgett, legal intern for the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales working in Calabar, said “It is vital for people to remember that it is against the law to beat children. Thanks to the hard work of BRC, the police and the court, this child is now safe and her abuser has been brought to justice. We believe that every child in Nigeria deserves this same justice and we call upon all States to follow the shining example set by the Cross River State government in establishing effective family courts”.
She added that “it is not just up to governments to protect the rights of the child, we all have responsibilities to make sure children are not abused’’. People can find out more about how to do this by joining the Prevent Abuse of Children Today (PACT) Campaign at www.makeapact.org
The Niger Delta Child Rights Watch project involves the NGOs: Stepping Stones Nigeria, Basic Rights Counsel Initiative, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development, Stepping Stones Nigeria Child Empowerment Foundation and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales.