In Nigeria, State and local governments are in charge of the implementation of national policies. Prior to the 2003 Child Rights Act (CRA), Nigerian child protection was defined by the Children and Young People’s Act (CYPA), a law relating primarily to juvenile justice. Nigeria is a signatory to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child while the national legislature has passed the CRA; the law appears to have differing levels of acceptance and implementation among Nigerian States due in part to the diverse range of ethnic groups and customs.
The CRA can be described as legally “binding,” with no provision of national force that truly protects children against abusive conditions. Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) are more likely to have low access to health care, education, nutrition, and psychosocial care. They are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, substance abuse, exploitation, social exclusion, child labor, poverty, further exposure to risks than their peers and to die younger.
OVCs require care and support services for education, health, nutritional, legal and psychosocial support. These rights are not enjoyed by most OVCs as no mechanisms exist to ensure the enforcement of these rights. The Child’s Rights Act is yet to be passed by half the States in the country; the Act, though comprehensive on children generally, does not have a section specifically addressing care and support for orphans and vulnerable children in the context of HIV and AIDS.
The Child Rights Act has had little true effect on child’s rights across Nigeria, due to non- implementation by most States. Though enacted at the national level, States are expected to formally adopt and adapt the Act for domestication by the State House of Assembly as State laws. This is imperative as issues of child rights protection are on the residual list of the Nigerian Constitution, giving States exclusive responsibility in the matter. The main challenge is passage in State Houses of Assembly; otherwise the provisions of the law will not be translated into concrete actions supportive of the intended beneficiaries.
The struggle for tomorrow is with continued awareness building, the OVC voices will be heard by policy makers who in turn will ensure concrete laws are specifically passed at the national and state levels. It helps knowing the next generation is geared towards making a difference; the OVCs will definitely have a voice fighting their cause.