Prevalence of Child Abuse Alarmingly High in Nigeria; Witnesses Do Not Report Cases

Abuja, Nigeria. December 12th, 2017 – Latest public opinion poll conducted by NOIPolls in partnership with Child Protection Hub Nigeria (CPHub) has revealed a high prevalence (92 percent) of child abuse in Nigeria, corroborating  a report by UNICEF which also revealed a high prevalent rate of child abuse in Nigeria specifying that millions of children in Nigeria suffer some form of physical, emotional or sexual violence.[1]  NOIPolls findings further revealed that half of the respondents (50 percent) attested to have personally witnessed the incidence of child abuse within their localities. This is line with a 2014 Nigeria Violence Against Children (VAC) survey by the National Population Commission, with support from UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which revealed that 6 out of 10 Nigerian children experienced at least one form of violence before they are 18.[2]

It was also revealed that there are very few organizations working to support victims of child abuse and those are largely based in the cities. For example, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), National Agency for the Protection of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), World Health Organization (WHO), etc. are very popular in the Southern region of Nigeria due to the rife activities of human trafficking, including children, in the zone. In support of this, statistics from this report revealed that 78 percent of the respondents claimed that they do not know organizations that support victims of child abuse while only 22 percent indicated that they are aware of such organizations, based on events that have occurred in their localities which borders on child abuse. 

The report further revealed a low reporting rate of abused children as only 27 percent of the 50 percent of respondents who claimed to have personally witnessed child abuse confirmed to have reported the case mainly to the Police via word of mouth. It could be inferred that child abuse in Nigeria is stoked by an overall poor public knowledge on its dangers to the society at large as this report portrays respondents’ indifference in reporting cases of child abuse in their localities. This indifference could also be attributed to the poor and slow domestication of the 1989 United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1990 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.  In 2003, Nigeria signed into law the Child Rights Act (CRA) to domesticate these international and regional child rights treaties of which it is a party to.  So far, the Child Rights Act has been passed in only 25 of Nigeria’s 36 states, with Plateau State being the most recent to enact the law on the 24th of November, 2017.[3]  In the same vein the survey showed that 10 percent of Nigerians nationwide stated that child protection laws should be duly enforced in order to curb this threat to humanity. These are some of the key findings from the Child Abuse poll conducted in the week commencing November 13th, 2017.

 

Brief Background

Child abuse is any action by a parent, guardian, caregiver, any other persons, organization or institution that causes harm to a child whether through deliberate action or failing to act thereby; causing injury, emotional harm, and risk of serious harm or even death to a child. There are many forms of child abuse, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse. Protecting the rights of a child is vital in every society because the future of that society and the world at large is reliant on the proper development of all children. Unequivocally, the kind of upbringing or care a child gets today fashions his/her personality and determines what they contribute to nation building. Hence, children must be protected from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation. 

A survey report on the 2014 Nigeria Violence Against Children conducted by the National Population Commission with the support of the United States Centre for Disease Control and UNICEF, revealed a high prevalence of violence against children across all states in Nigeria.  The survey also revealed that approximately 6 in 10 children experienced some form of violence and 50 percent of all children in Nigeria experienced physical violence. It further showed that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 10 boys experienced sexual violence, while 1 in 6 girls and 1 in 5 boys experienced emotional violence by a parent, caregiver or adult relative. 

The extreme weakness of child protection systems in Nigeria and building a child-centered social protection system will undoubtedly be challenging, especially given the broader governance concerns in the country. However, violence against children ought to be ended by the year 2030, according to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but for this to be achieved, all hands must be on deck. For instance, all the stakeholders of the Federal, State and Local government and their corresponding parastatals including International and Local agencies that are championing the course of violence against children and other stakeholders should focus on an enlightenment campaign directed towards strengthening awareness and enforcement of relevant legislative and policy frameworks in the course of protecting the Rights of the Nigerian Child. 

Against this backdrop, NOIPolls in partnership with Child Protection Hub Nigeria (CPHub) –   a child advocacy organization that aims to ensure the protection and safeguarding of the Nigerian child, conducted a knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP) survey to gauge the prevalence, awareness, and responses of Nigerians to incidents of child abuse in the country. 

Survey Findings

The initial question sought the prevalence of child abuse and findings revealed a high occurrence of child abuse in the country as indicated by 92 percent of respondents surveyed. It also showed that there are slightly more female respondents than male respondents who asserted that the incidence of child abuse in Nigeria is high. Further analysis by age group revealed that those aged 61 and above had the largest proportion (95 percent) of respondents who believe there is a high prevalence of child abuse in Nigeria and this could be attributed to personal experiences or reports that they may have heard from other parents. On the contrary, 8 percent of the respondents surveyed stated that the incidence of child abuse is not prevalent in Nigeria.

 

An even split of 50 percent of respondents said they have personally witnessed cases of child abuse in their localities. More analysis by geopolitical zones revealed that the South-East zone (58 percent) had the highest percentage of respondents that have personally witnessed a case of child abuse, this was closely followed by the South-South zone (57 percent) while the North-East zone (41 percent) had the lowest percentage of respondents in this category. The other 50 percent of respondents alleged that they have not witnessed any case of child abuse within their localities.

 

Lastly, respondents gave some suggestions as a means to reduce the incidence of child abuse in Nigeria and the top four responses mentioned includes; ‘public enlightenment on the effects of child abuse’ (31 percent), ‘strict punishment on the defaulters of child abuse law’ (12 percent), ‘free education for all children’ (10 percent) and ‘make a law on child protection’ (10 percent). 

It is important to note that, although, Nigeria assented to domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child through the CRA in 2003 which led to the passing of the law at the Federal level, only 25 out of the country’s 36 States have passed the CRA. Therefore, intense advocacy is required for the remaining 11 States to pass it to law so that the rights of the child would be fully protected. For the states that have domesticated the CRA, a concerted effort is needed on the part of state agencies at the state and local government level to ensure effective implementation of the Act. 

In conclusion, survey results have confirmed that there is a high prevalence of child abuse in Nigeria, inadequate cluster of child-rights organizations capable of providing support services to abused children or those at risk of abuse which was evident from the low percentage of respondents who are aware of such organizations. Also, some of the international organizations driving the course of this matter have grown in popularity due to the peculiarity in the zones where they are present. For example, the lingering Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East region has made UN agencies and INGOs like UNICEF, Save the Children and International Red Cross etc. popular in that area. These are clear evidences of a knowledge gap between the government, citizenry and the stakeholders (national and international NGOs) that are saddled with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights of the child in Nigeria. Limited resources available to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (MWASD) and local child-rights NGOs further cripples the current child protection system in the country and children continue to be victims of child abuse. 

The extreme weakness of child protection systems in Nigeria and building a child-centered social protection system will undoubtedly be challenging, especially given the broader governance concerns in the country. However, violence against children ought to be ended by the year 2030, according to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but for this to be achieved, all hands must be on deck. For instance, all the stakeholders of the Federal, State and Local government and their corresponding parastatals including International and Local agencies that are championing the course of violence against children and other stakeholders should focus on an enlightenment campaign directed towards strengthening awareness and enforcement of relevant legislative and policy frameworks in the course of protecting the Rights of the Nigerian Child. 

Additionally, the report has also established that 50 percent of Nigerians claimed to have witnessed an incidence of child abuse, however, only 27 percent went on to report the case. Furthermore, majority (60 percent) of those who reported did so to the Police mainly through word-of-mouth, as attested to by 93 percent of the respondents. In the same vein, this finding seems to be a confirmation that Nigerians seem to be unwilling to report cases of child abuse in the country as 34 percent of the respondents claimed that they do not know where to report the case to. Hence, it is pertinent for the Federal Government of Nigeria, MWASD, international and local agencies that are passionate about protecting the Rights of the Child to rise up to these challenges by educating citizens on the resultant effects of child abuse, as suggested by 31 percent of the respondents. They should also advise the public on where to report such cases and the process of reporting. Where such systems do not exist, then efforts should be made by these stakeholders to develop a referral pathway for children who are abused or at risk of abuse. There should also be an even distribution of organizations that support the victims of child abuse with a very clear direction on how to locate them. 

Finally, in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal to end all forms of violence against children by 2030, it is important to persuade the remaining 11 States in Nigeria that are yet to pass the Child Right Act of 2003 to do so with immediate effect in order to fully criminalize the dastardly act therefore providing Nigerian children the opportunity where they are nurtured in a safe and secure environment. According to Lyndon B. Johnson, “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose”, therefore the right of every child should be protected so that we can have a secure tomorrow. 

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Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week commencing November 14th, 2017. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geo-political zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise - within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com you can also download our mobile app NOIPolls on your smartphone. 

Disclaimer

This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published. 

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking. 

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[1] https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/media_11542.html

[2] https://www.unicef.org/nigeria/media_11542.html

[3]https://www.premiumtimesng.com/regional/north-central/250623-plateau-domesticates-child-rights-act-vows-full-implementation.html