The alleged abduction, forced marriage and conversion to Islam of 14-year old Miss Ese Oruru may have forced the Bayelsa State House of Assembly to quicken the process of fine-tuning the Child Rights Act document to prevent a recurrence of the event which has recently gained global attention.
At a one-day public hearing held yesterday at the Banquet Hall, Yenagoa, the lawmakers explained that the event had become imperative so as to get the input of members of the public and non-governmental organisations.
The hearing was Jointly hosted by the State Assembly, the United Nation Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the European Union, EU, the United Nation Office on Drugs and crime, UNODC, the Bayelsa State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and the Bayelsa Child Protection Network.
Chairman, Joint Committee of the House on Judiciary, Justice and General/Social Development, Mr Bernard Kenebai, who represented the leadership of the House, said that the public hearing was a critical requirement as it would enable the public to scrutinize the bill before it is passed into law.
He said that the Bayelsa state version of the bill had been in the works for a while, having gone through several processes of scrutiny, which included scaling the first and second reading in the state assembly.
Nigeria domesticated the Child Rights Convention in 2003 with the passage of the bill by the National Assembly and subsequent accent by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
However, about 13 years after, many states in Nigeria are yet to domesticate (put into consideration their localities and peculiarities) the Act and pass it into law.
They include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara, it was learnt.
In his speech, Kenebai argued that the issues that concern the wellbeing of the children, deal with Nigeria’s foundation, strength and survival as a people, ‘’ because in our children is our future’’.
He added, ‘’As with most things in nature, children who are in the their budding state of life are delicate and fragile; spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally. They therefore require all the protection they can get for viable development and survival to a productive and meaningful adult life.”
The lawmaker who represents Sagbama constituency two in the state house of assembly urged the participants to be part of history as they ‘’enrich the process with their wisdom, knowledge and wealth of experience’’.
In his goodwill message, UNICEF Chief of Field Office, Charles Nzuki, said the public hearing would represent a significant milestone with promises to improve laws, policies and the overall system to promote and guarantee survival, development and protection of children in the state.
He said that since 2003 when the Child Rights Act was passed at the Federal level, 24 states had domesticated the bill, saying the program would enhance the domestication process in Bayelsa state.
“The United Nation Children’s Fund, UNICEF, stands in partnership with the Government and people of Bayelsa state to actualize this goal; not just the letters of the law but in actual implementation of the law when eventually passed,” he said.