Uju, a 12 year old girl is Mrs. Okorie’s niece. She was brought to Lagos by her mother to live with her sister because she could not afford to send her to school. Mrs. Okorie being well- to- do, agreed to look after Uju as well as educate her up to university level, if she was well behaved, but that was not to be as Mrs. Okorie decided to enslave Uju. Not only did Uju stay at home all day carrying out household chores, she was never sent to school as agreed.
One day, Uju, for failing to carry out her household “duties” Mrs. Okorie beat Uju almost to the point of death; she was saved by concerned neighbours, who rushed her to the hospital. Uju did not come back complete as she was discharge partially blind with scars all over her body.
By section 2 of the children and young people’s law of Nigeria, 1994, a child is a person who is under the age 13 years. The criminal code provides in section 252 that:
“Any person who strikes, touches, or moves, or otherwise applies force of any kind to, the person of another, either directly or indirectly, without his consent, or with his consent, if the consent is obtained by fraud, or who by any bodily act or gesture attempts or threatens to apply force of any kind to the person of another without his consent, in such circumstances that the person making the attempt or threat has actually or apparently a present ability to effect his purpose, is said to assault that other person, and the act is called an assault.
The term “applies force includes the case of applying heat, light electrical or force, gas, odour, or any other substances or thing whatever, if applied in such a degree as to cause injury or personal discomfort.”
Again Section 335 of the criminal code provides that: “Any person who unlawfully does grievous harm to another is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.”
The educational objectives as provided for in the 1999 constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria is that Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. The Right not to infringe on the dignity of human person is adequately enshrined in the 1991 constitution, where it provides that no person shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.
From the above quoted sections, we can see that the Laws abound in our statutes, but the infringement of Uju’s rights started from her own parents who could not care for her but had to entrust her into the hands of relations. If the law is to take its normal course, Mrs. Okorie should be reported to the Police for prosecution and sued for tortuous liability. The government on the other hand is not helping matters, because if the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy are strictly adhered to Uju’s mother would not have had any reason to look for help outside immediate family.
The child has no rights but it behoves all of us as parents, teachers, guardians, law enforcement agents and all tiers of government to ensure that all that needs to be done is done and very well too.
In England for instance, if a child of school age is not registered in school at the appropriate time or a child is absent from school for no reason, as soon as the information gets to the authorities, the parents or guardian will be sanctioned, and it if it is found out they lack the wherewithal to look after the child, he or she immediately becomes the responsibility of the government. If this was the case here no child will be found hawking or roaming the streets when others are in school studying.
Let’s build this country on a solid foundation for good leaders of tomorrow