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Minors as endangered species – Tribune Online

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TWO recent incidents involving minors in different parts of the country highlight the dangers faced by young Nigerians against the backdrop of deepening immiseration and moral collapse. The first, a textbook case of jungle justice if there is any, concerns 12-year-old Adamu, a resident of Tumu District in Akko Local Government Area of Gombe State whose arms were reportedly amputated by his uncle for allegedly stealing a phone. Adamu’s incredulous story recalls a similar incident back in 2018 involving 13-year-old Zubair Abubakar, whose arms were amputated by his teacher. In both cases, the relative and the teacher bypassed the law and arrogated to themselves the roles of accuser, judge and amputator.

We commend the vice chairperson of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) in the state, who is also the chairperson of the Human Rights Committee of the NBA, Ms. Mwalin Abdu, for taking advantage of activities surrounding this year’s Children’s Day (June 9) to draw attention to both incidents. Her statement, entitled “Protecting our future: Urgent action needed on child protection in Gombe State,” is a model of clear thinking and vigorous argumentation, and we quote it at length below because it goes straight to the heart of the matter: “Even though the office of the Attorney-General has taken over the prosecution of the cases, we believe that is not enough, because these two stories are just a tip of the iceberg of the numerous daily reported and unreported complaints or cases of child abuse in the state, ranging from sexual abuse, child labour, child molestation, child trafficking and so on. The heartbreaking tales of young victims like Zubair Abubakar and Adamu from Gombe State underscore a troubling reality: child abuse remains a pervasive issue in our communities, transcending mere headlines to expose the harsh realities faced by our most vulnerable members. While the ratification of the child protection law in 2022 was a pivotal step, the gap between legislation and its effective enforcement looms large, leaving children at risk and their futures uncertain. The time for passive observance has passed; the safeguarding of every child’s well-being demands immediate and resolute action.”

She continued: “Gombe State must move swiftly to implement and enforce the child protection law, ensuring that those who exploit and harm our children face the full force of justice. Robust reporting mechanisms, specialized victim support services, and widespread awareness campaigns are imperative to redress the rampant abuse, exploitation, and trafficking that plague our dear state. On this National Children’s Day, let us recommit ourselves to the noble cause of defending our children’s rights in Gombe State.”

We couldn’t agree more with Ms. Abdu and enthusiastically commend her statement to lawmakers in the state and other parts of the country. As a matter of fact, if there is one state where lawmakers need to pay heed to Ms. Abdu’s muscular statement, it is Ebonyi State where, recently, a middle-aged man identified as Abraham was arrested by security operatives after he was accused of having sex with a little boy and then poisoning him in order to, as it were, bury the evidence. We recall that in April 2016, one Stephen Ude, 35, a native of Amuzu community, Amasiri Afikpo North Local Government Area of the state was also arrested for allegedly defiling a 10-year-old boy. The victim had accompanied the suspect to the farm, whereupon the suspect pounced on him. In September 2022, the Ebonyi State Police Command arrested Miracle Onwe, a 19- year-old suspected serial rapist who specialised in assaulting and robbing victims, mostly minors.

Suffice to say, these cases should be treated with the seriousness and severity that they deserve. Insofar as the moral worth of a society is measured by the way it treats the most disadvantaged, there is no gainsaying that priority should be accorded children and minors. While we fully expect government at various levels to work on this issue as a matter of urgency, we wish to underscore that the problem we have identified cannot be solved by the government alone. On the contrary, as they say, it takes a village.

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