Note to Children: Your Right as a Child
Imagine a world without Children, it would just be null and void. Children add colours to our world and keep us smiling. This is to tell us that Children, male or female, are very essential in every parts of the world.
As Children, it is essential for you to understand certain things going on around you because in future most of these understanding would be of immense use to you. Legally, I have observed that most children don’t know their rights and obligations which is why most adults are able to bully them. It is important for you to acquire legal education no matter how little, even if it is only to know your Rights and Duties.
Before we move on, let’s familiarize ourselves with the word, “MINOR”. The word ” minor ” means an infant or a person who is under the age of legal competence. In short, a minor is someone under the legal age. The legal age here in our country, Nigeria is 18 year. So, as long as you are not up to the legal age which is 18 years, you are regarded as a minor and you have enjoy your right as a child. For example, you can’t be sentenced to prison or even sentenced to death.
However, this should neither be taken as a right to commit crimes nor used as a leverage to perpetrate other evil deeds. As a matter of fact, a minor that is found guilty of committing a crime is not allowed to go scot-free. Rather, such minor loses some freedom because he/she is detained in the Juvenile Remand Home until it appears to the relevant government authorities that he/she has reasonably imbibed a good character.
So, in short, the law excludes life imprisonment or any capital punishment but once you are 18years, you are regarded as an Adult and must bear the full consequences of your action. However, this doesn’t mean you are powerless and the law doesn’t recognize you. In fact, the law recognizes and makes provisions for you even more than the adults. For instance, whenever an issue happens, between an adult and a child, a child would be heard first because the law presumes you children cannot lie. Therefore, the Law protects you fully both Nationally and Internationally.
Have you ever heard of the word “Rights”? I am sure our Social Studies, Civic Education and Government teachers would have taught us things like that. However, for those who might not be taking the subjects or have forgotten about this subject, let enlighten ourselves.
Rights are privileges or freedoms which the law permits. They are also legal or moral entitlements to refrain us from doing something. For example, we know it is morally wrong to steal but it is also illegal. I’m sure your next question would be, “what are my Rights?”.
According to the United Nations Convention, You have the following rights:
- The Right to Affection, love and understanding;
- The Right to Adequate nutrition and medical care;
- The Right to Free Medical Care;
- The Right to full opportunity for play and recreation;
- The Right to a name and opportunity;
- The Right to Special Care, if handicapped;
- The Right to be among the first to receive relief in times of disaster;
- You also have the right to a good and sound education;
- The Right to be brought up in a spirit of peace and universal brotherhood.
The Child’s Rights Act 2003 was enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 31st day of July, 2003. It is ‘AN ACT TO PROVIDE AND PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF A NIGERIAN CHILD; AND OTHER RELATED MATTERS.’
The Act reiterates the definition of a child as anyone below the age 18. See Section 277. Note, however, that for the Act to be enforceable in a State, it must be passed into law by the House of Assembly of the State.
Under the Child’s Right Act, every child is entitled to rest and leisure and to engage in play, sports and recreational activities appropriate to this age; every child is entitled to participate fully in the cultural and artistic activities of the Nigerian, African and world communities, and every Government, person, institution, service, agency, organization and body, responsible for the care and welfare of a child shall, at all times, ensure adequate opportunities for the child in the enjoyment of these rights provided for the child.
Every child is entitled to enjoy the best attainable state of physical, mental and spiritual health; every Government, parent, guardian, institution, service, agency, organisation or body responsible for the care of a child shall endeavour to provide for the child the best attainable state of health; every Government in Nigeria shall:
(a) endeavour to reduce infant and child mortality rate;
(b) ensure the provision of necessary medical assistance and health care services to all children with emphasis on the development of primary health care; (c) ensure the provision of adequate nutrition and safe drinking water ensure the provision of good hygiene and environmental sanitation;
(e) combat disease and malnutrition within the framework of primary health care through the application of appropriate technology;
(f) ensure appropriate health care for expectant and nursing mothers; and
(g) support, through technical and financial means, the mobilisation of national and local community resources in the development of primary health care for children.
Every parent, guardian or person having the care and custody or a child under the age of two (2) years shall ensure that the child is provided with full immunization; every parent, guardian or person having the care of a child who fails in the duty imposed on him to ensure the child is provided with full immunization commits an offence and is liable on conviction for:
(a) a first offence, to a fine not exceeding five thousand Naira; and
(b) a second or any subsequent offence, whether in respect of that child or any other child, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month.
(6) The court may make, in substitution for or addition to any penalty stipulated under Subsection (5) of this section, an order compelling the parent or guardian of a child to get the child immunized
All these are regarded as a child’s rights to survival. See Sections 12 & 13.
Children also have a right to development which include the development of the child, spirit, soul and body. See Sections 15 & 29.
Children have a right to protection, which include protection of the child from child labour, child trafficking, ritual killing, sexual, physical, emotional abuses and neglect. Reference is made to Sections 21-52.
Children are also entitled to a right of participation, which include the right of the child to be involved in matters that concerns them. See Sections 3(1) (2), 6. 7, 8, 13, 19 & 20.
Children have a right to be free from child abuse; no person, shall have sexual intercourse with a child. Persons who have sexual intercourse with a child commit an offence of rape and are liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
Where a person is charged with an offence bordering on the sexual abuse of a child, it is immaterial that the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years or that the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child. See Section 31.
You also have the right to enjoy these Rights regardless of your race, colour, sex, religion, national or social origin. These Rights listed above are the most important rights you have as children. Other Rights would be discussed later.
However, I want you to know that as you reach the adult phase, your Rights changes. In essence, once you clock 18, there are changes in your rights.
Please, beware that the fact that you have these Rights doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect your elders. You have to respect them no matter what. Also in some cases whereby a child has done something extremely bad, as stated earlier, he/she would be sent to the Juvenile Remand Home where children are kept so they can learn their lessons and not be bad omens to the society.
The essence of the law is to keep us all from taking wrong steps and it offers you the necessary protection you need to become a responsible adult. With the enjoyment of these rights, you should be good and worthy ambassadors of our country, Nigeria.
THE LEGAL DIARY
Favour Oluwakamimayo Adeosun