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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

The strength of the economy of a country is said to be dependent largely on the mental and social health of women and children of that country. This implies that the prosperity of a nation invariably rests on people-oriented governmental policies for the posterity of that nation, Olamide (2013). Therefore, it is incumbent upon the government of the given society to formulate policies that will foster and enhance children‟s well-being and education. Findings have shown that most thriving countries in the world are those that place high priority on the well-being of children in the process and practice of governance. Research has also shown that children and women occupy the highest percentage of the population of a given society. Various population censuses that have been carried out in Nigeria have shown that Nigeria is not exempted from the above projected studies. Unfortunately, over the years, this all-important group of people has suffered mostly of the societal ills as a result of lack of legislative policies, legal instrument and ethical framework that support, promote and protect their well-being, Olamide (2013).

According to ladan (2007), the Nigerian Constitution under Chapters four and two on Fundamental Human rights and on fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy respectively, is not child rights specific; he further stated that, the various State Children and Young Persons Laws are largely Juvenile Justice Administration biased and not necessarily child's rights and responsibilities specific, as well as not

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being CRC/AU Charter friendly in terms of modern conceptions/principles of Juvenile Justice Administration.

It is evident in our society that this category of human beings faced peculiar problems which they are unable to solve themselves as a result of the state of their immature minds and the positions they occupy in their homes and society at large. Special Problems faced by millions of Nigerian Children range from problem of disadvantage, discrimination, abuse and exploitation sometimes in appalling circumstances. These problems not only compound the risks of survival and create formidable obstacles for the development of children, but are major challenges in their own right, requiring special protection measures if they are to be addressed effectively, UNICEF and FGN (2001).

Among several international humanitarian bodies across the globe, UNICEF has played major role in agitating for the right of children. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is a United Nations Program headquartered in New York City that provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries. It is one of the members of the United Nations Development Group and its Executive Committee, (Undg.org. Retrievedaugust 2014).

UNICEF was created by the United NationsGeneral Assembly on December 11, 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by World War II. In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the United Nations System and its name was shortened from the original United Nations

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International Children's Emergency Fund but it has continued to be known by the popular acronym based on this previous title.

Most of UNICEF's work is in the field, with staff in over 190 countries and territories. More than 200 country offices carry out UNICEF's mission through a program developed with host governments. Seventeen regional offices provide technical assistance to country offices as needed.

On 20 November 1989, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Shortly afterwards, in July 1990, the African Union Assembly of Heads of States and Governments adopted the African Union Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CRWC). Nigeria signed both international instruments and ratified them in 1991 and 2000, respectively. Both instruments contain a universal set of standards and principles for survival, development, protection and participation of children and recognize children as human beings and subjects of rights.

However, since Nigeria operates a Federal system of government where the states are autonomous and equal, with each state operating its own legislative system many states are yet to enact state legislations on child rights. In these states the Act has not been given its due recognition which has made its enforcement far from being functional. Children are a vulnerable group, they must be protected. Let us accord them their “rights”.

Children are precious assets and sources of joy not only to their parents and immediate families but to the entire society. As an upcoming generation and potential leaders of

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tomorrow, they have rights that need be protected. They have to be cared for and nurtured to develop their potentials so that they can contribute to the development of the society.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Despite the signing into law of the child right Act in Nigeria, its implementation and enforcement hasbeen far from functional due to a number of problems faced in this study. These problems includetraditional and cultural beliefs. The family and by extension the society have failed to come to terms with the fact that children have rights. It is a taboo for the Nigerian child to sue or seek redress against their parents; therefore even where children are aware that their rights have been infringed upon or violated, especially by their parents, it is an uphill task to have such rights enforced. More so, Religious diversities especially between the Northern and Southern part of the country are a major challenge to the enforcement of the Act. The definition of the child, marriageable age and adoption remain areas of controversy which has not allowed for effective enforcement. Furthermore, the Act provides for the establishment of family courts for each of the States ofthe Federation and the Federal Capital Territory for the purpose of hearingand determining matters relating to children. These Courts are virtuallynon-existent in the states. The few in existence are not well equipped.Generally, the role of the courts and law enforcement agencies is to carry outtheir duty of law enforcement. The court also has a role while performing itsduty to educate citizens in the voluntary and conscientious observance of laws.Unfortunately,

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due to lack of training and poor funding, the judicial arm of thegovernment as well as the police force are yet to be fully sensitized on theprinciples and content of the Act thereby making enforcement difficult. Finally, majority of the populace are not conversant with the content of the Act due to illiteracy. Thelegal framework for the protection of the child is not only unknown by thechildren or their parents, but also social welfare agencies and all other personsor bodies who are in a position to protect the rights of the children. It is on this basics, this study targets to throw more light on the UNICEF governance and the child right act.




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