Children should not be found in prisons, but in correctional homes or rehabilitation centres. However, most of the correctional homes are not adequately equipped for this task and many citizens are not aware of the diversion community rehabilitation programme. This is why the Lagos state Ministry of Youth and Social Development in collaboration with UNICEF and Grace Springs Rehabilitation Home began a series of trainings for social workers, the judiciary, law enforcement organisations and the society to create the needed awareness among these stakeholders.

In a parley for media practitioners which held on Wednesday, December 12, 2018 at Dover Hotel, Ikeja, Mr. Denis Onoise, a child protection specialist from UNICEF spoke on strengthening the child protection system and ending violence against children. He said that a study conducted by Violence Against Child Study (VACS) in 2014 in three different states of the federation showed that there is a high level of violence against children in Nigeria. According to the study, six out of ten children experience some form of violence before age 18.

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He further noted that both the parents of a child and the state have the responsibility of taking care of children and protecting their right to live, go to school and live in a peaceful and conducive environment. But when these rights are abused, he said, it leads these children to either consciously or unconsciously be at conflict with the law. In his words, “a totality of abuse on children affects their brain which further causes decrease in brain function, learning impairment, poor performance at school, high risk behaviour, early pregnancy, incapacity to maintain relationships, circle of poverty, family separation and many others.”

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He therefore enjoined all stakeholders to ensure all hands are on deck to curb the injustice against children as this will reduce the tendency of them becoming delinquent.

In his lecture titled Position of Child Right’s Law on Reporting Cases of Child Offenders, Mr. Habeeb Dosunmu said that no child between 0 and 18 years who is in conflict with the law should be called a criminal or an offender according to The Child Rights Law Section 190. “We must not be seen using inappropriate words in describing children in conflict with the law,” he said.

According to him, every child in conflict with the law should not be treated as a criminal. Thus, such a child, he said, cannot be arrested, but apprehended except in a case of murder, felony and treason; cannot be interrogated, but debriefed; cannot be detained, but accommodated; cannot be prosecuted, but go for hearing; cannot be given a remand order, but a correctional order; cannot be sentenced to prison, but to a special correctional centre; cannot be held in police custody for more than 24 hours without a declaration of police protection; cannot be asked to write or give a statement until his or her parents, guardian, or social worker is present among many other rights of such a child.

This is why, according to him, the diversion community programme is the best for children because it does not only correct them, it makes them learn and allows them speak up. “You can discipline a child a child to correct but don’t punish them to the extent of damage,” he concluded.

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Mrs. Oluwatoyin Giwa-Ododo enjoined the media practitioners to further create and promote awareness of the right of the child as well as the diversion community rehabilitation alternative. According to her, that is the best way to correct these children to make them better citizens and not by treating them as criminals.

Reporter: Becky Olorunpomi