By Hassan Zaggi
The newly sworn-in political leaders at all levels have been advised to give greater priority to addressing issues affecting children, especially, the girl child.
A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)- Plan International, gave the advice in statement in Abuja, yesterday.
Plan International has as its major priority the promotion and advancement of children’s rights and equality for girls.
Country Director of Plan International, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, in the statement, lamented that successive governments at all levels in the country have virtually left issues concerning girls on the back seat while the challenges keep increasing on a daily basis.
He, however, insisted that: “It is time for the government to put issues concerning the girl child in the front burner.
“Across the length and breadth of the country, girls are caught up in one crisis or the other including forced marriage to being child brides, teenage pregnancy, kidnapping, child labour and rape”.
While quoting the 2018 UNICEF report, Abdu regretted that Nigeria is home to 22 million child brides, the highest in the world.
“This accounts for 40 percent of child brides in the West Africa sub region. This is unacceptable for our country, Nigeria.
“We can do much better than this. It is high time the federal government did much more than rhetoric by taking practical steps to safeguard the Nigerian girl,” he said.
According to him, it was painful to know that 60 percent of the more than 10 million out of school children in Nigeria are girls.
“A nation that belittles 50 percent of its population is preparing a doomed future for itself. The government at all levels must prioritise its young population, especially girls. We must say no to child bride, we must say no to rape and we must say yes to education of the girl and yes to safety of every child in the country,” Abdu noted.
The Country Director also called on the National Assembly to pass laws that are unambiguous and reward good practices and punish wrong doers irrespective of the perpetuators.
He particularly identified the provision of the constitution that sets age limit for marriage for girls at 18 but in another breath provides that girls automatically becomes adults once they are married irrespective of their ages at the time of marriage.
“This ambiguity provides leeway for paedophilias and child abusers who hide under the cover of legality,” he said.