APPRAISAL OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR PROTECTING RIGHTS OF THE CHILD AND THE ROLE OF UNICEF IN PROMOTING RIGHTS OF THE CHILD IN NIGERIA
United Nations Children Fund is an international Institution that deals with the promotion and protection of the rights of children in times of peace and during emergency situations. Restrictively, this thesis aimed at studying the activities of UNICEF in the promotion and protection of the Rights of the child in Nigeria. The sources of information relied upon are, relevant books, statutes, judicial authorities, articles in Journal publications, newspapers, magazines, and conference and internet materials. The justification for these theses is that, despite the long years of UNICEF’s presence in Nigeria, the situation of the Nigerian child is still very poor. In addition, of recent, many crises have subjected children in Nigeria to untold hardship and reduced them to objects of sympathy, especially, the ongoing Boko Haram crisis in the North-Eastern part of the country where children are involved in calamities along with adults, but painfully, children being vulnerable and defenceless are exposed to all manners of hardship and suffering. Thus, in view of this, the objective of this thesis is to identify the activates of UNICEF that will promote, protect the rights of the child as well as alleviate the suffering of children in Emergency situations in Nigeria. Thus the finding of this research among others is that due to the mandate of UNICEF as an inter-governmental agency, the Fund, although an agency dedicated solely to children, ironically has limited interaction with children and thus lacks practical experience in dealing with children. In view of this, the research was concluded by recommending among others that UNICEF should encourage Child Participation in all its programs as well as initiate programs that will increase direct interaction with children
CHAPTER ONE GENERAL INTRODUCTION
Background to the Study
It is generally known and accepted that children need special care and protection and are dependent upon the aid and assistance of adults, especially in the early years of their existence.1 In their early years, children depend on adults for their feeding, clothing, and indeed all other aspect of their existence.
Under International Human Rights Law, children are considered to be among the vulnerable group and therefore are disadvantaged and needs to be protected by the law. Thus there is no questioning the fact that children constitute the most vulnerable and powerless members of the society. However, the concept that children have specific rights deserving of enforcement and protection is a comparatively modern development. The popular assumption in times past was that most adults and parents in particular, had the best interests of the child at heart, there was thus no necessity to think in terms of children‘s right.2
Recognition of children‘s rights grew out of the wider crusade for human rights, specifically those of women. Indeed, perceptions of the two groups were largely
similar. In the 18th century, for example, both women and children were generally regarded as a form of property.3
The United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF) is a Specialised Agency of the United Nation, devoted to the health and welfare of children. UNICEF is headquartered in New York and works with children in over 158 countries.4 UNICEF originally began as a response to the right of children in the aftermath of World War II. Its mandate gradually broadened to include ongoing support for children in all parts of the world. Currently UNICEF is the leading advocate for children‘s rights, and works to overcome violence and discrimination against children.
Nigeria was one of the very first African countries where the United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF) established a programme of cooperation. UNICEF‘s work for the survival, protection and development of Nigerian children has continued ever since. Today, UNICEF is still working in partnership with many stakeholders including children and families to achieve national and international goals instrumental in the fulfilment of children‘s right.
UNICEF has been present in Nigeria for over six decades now. The organization has been involved in activities geared towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child in Nigeria. Despite the long years of UNICEF‘s active and continuous struggle to better the welfare of children in Nigeria, the Rights of the Nigerian child to Survival and Early Care; Basic Education; Nutrition; Freedom from Discrimination and other rights provided for by both International and Local Instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Rights Act remains only a dream for many Nigerian children. What then has UNICEF been doing specifically to improve the situation of the Nigerian Child? And to what extent has the efforts been effective in promoting and protecting the Right of the child in Nigeria.
In addition, many recent crises in Nigeria, especially the Boko Haram crisis has had a devastating effect on the Nigerian populace. The most affected group being children who are vulnerable and defenceless. The Boko Haram crisis has reduced many children in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria to objects of sympathy. Presently, it is estimated that there are about 2 million Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East and about 56 per cent of them being children.6 What steps has UNICEF taken to alleviate the suffering of the children in crisis situation especially in the Boko Haram affected areas of the North – East of Nigeria? And how effective has the intervention of UNICEF been in protecting the Rights of Children in emergency situations in Nigeria?