By Felix Khanoba
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to 10 years imprisonment by a Kano Sharia Court over alleged blasphemy.
The child rights organisation called on the Kano State Government to prevail on appropriate authorities to reverse the judgement.
Farouq was reported to have been jailed by a Sharia Court sitting at Feli Hockey, Kano, after he was convicted of blasphemy on 10 August 2020.
But reacting to the court judgement on Wednesday, UNICEF’s country representative, Peter Hawkins, described the verdict as heart-breaking and called for urgent review of the case.
“UNICEF today expressed deep concern about the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to ten years’ imprisonment with menial labour by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, in northern Nigeria.
“The sentencing of this child – 13-year-old Omar Farouk – to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.
“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to,” Hawkins said in a statement made available to newsmen by UNICEF Nigeria on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the sentence was also in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991 and a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development.
While expressing appreciation for the strides recently made by the Kano State on Child Protection Bill, the statement quoted the country representative as saying the present case calls for a speeding passage of the Bill into law.
“This case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including Omar Farouq are protected – and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards,” he said.
UNICEF restated its continued support of the Nigerian Government and Kano State Government on child protection system strengthening, including justice sector reform, to ensure that states put in place child-sensitive measures to handle cases involving children.
“This includes adopting alternative measures, in line with international best practice, for the treatment of children alleged to have committed offences that do not involve detention or deprivation of family care,” the statement said.