…Says 8.2 million children get FG’s free meals daily
…Saraki marks Children’s Day with IDPs in Benue
…Dogara seeks end to child labour, security lapses in schools
President Muhammadu Buhari has assured Nigerian children of his administration’s commitment to their protection, participation and survival in the country.
Buhari said that in 2015, the campaign to end violence against children was launched which was commemorated in 2016, noting that in November 2016, the Campaign to End Child Marriage was also launched to ensure that as many children as possible are able to fully enjoy their childhood and be protected from all the challenges associated with this phenomenon.
In his message to mark the Children’s Day on Sunday, President Buhari re-affirmed his administration’s commitment to the protection of children, saying it is “a day to reflect on our roles and responsibilities as parents and leaders towards our children, and also assessing how far we have fared in this regard.”
He said that the theme for this year’s celebration “Creating Safe Spaces for Children: Our 27th May, 2018,” added that his administration has recorded measurable success in the home grown school feeding programme as it has continued to expand.
The President stressed that one of the cardinal objectives of the present government is the provision of quality education “to our children as a fundamental foundation of economic and social development.”
Buhari further disclosed that, “Our children are our future, and the initiatives that come from them give confidence that our country has a bright future.
I am always inspired and encouraged when I remember encounters I had with three of our young ones. When I was on medical vacation in 2017, three-year-old Maya Jammal recorded a prayer for my recovery, which went viral online.
“Also, 10-year-old Aisha Aliyu Gebbi wrote a personal letter to me, describing herself as my “biggest fan”.
“Nicole Benson, then 12 years old, had contributed the sum of Five Thousand, Seven Hundred Naira and Eighty-Five kobo (N5, 700.85) to my campaign in 2015.
The money was all saved up from her lunch and pocket allowance. There are millions of such children nationwide,” he said.
Speaking further, Buhari said he was very impressed by what Nigerian children have been able to do, and what the future holds for them.
“That is one reason why we are committed to the school feeding programme, to prepare a future generation of physically and intellectually robust children,” he added.
According to the President, over 8.2 million children in 24 states of the Federation were being given free meals daily in 45,000 schools round the country.
He, therefore, called on all stakeholders to support the school feeding programme to ensure that all the 36 states of the Federation and FCT are covered.
This, the President said, “will promote substantially higher enrolment levels in our schools.
“As a responsible Government, we are committed to ensuring that children are protected from violence and exploitation against them, and, that their environments are safe enough for them to pursue their educational attainments, discover their full potentials to grow into responsible citizens.”
Buhari said that his administration has made giant strides in the protection of the Rights of the Nigerian Child and as a result of such efforts, he disclosed that Nigeria has been declared a Pathfinding Country on Ending Violence Against Children.
“This, I believe, is a collective achievement and I urge us to continue to build on the present momentum to achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our children are our future, and the initiatives that come from them give confidence that our country has a bright future,” he added.
The President called on all schools management committees at all levels of public and private institutions to take adequate security measures and put in place mechanisms for safety of children.
He also called on the Families, Security Agencies, Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders, Civil Society Organisations, Human Rights Activists, and the society at large to rise up and take urgent and decisive actions to stem the unacceptable rising cases of violence against our children, adding “We must ensure safety of our children in homes, schools, markets, worship centres, on the streets and everywhere at all times”.
Buhari appealed parents not to relent in their efforts to send their wards to school, especially the girl child as her education reduces infant and maternal mortality and prevents early and child marriages.
In a related development, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, on Sunday, celebrated the 2018 Children’s Day with children at the Abegena Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Benue State.
Saraki, who was accompanied on the visit by the Senators Barnabas Gemade, George Akume, Emmanuel Bwacha and Fatimat Raji-Rasaki, was received by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, who led the delegation to the camp.
Saraki, while commiserating with the people of Benue State over the loss of lives and property occasioned by incessant attacks by bandits, reiterated the call of the Senate for increased funding for security agencies to enable them combat violent crimes across the country.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sanni Onogu, Saraki said that killings in parts of the country must stop because they are an abomination to civilized values that cannot be tolerated.
Saraki said: “I decided to mark the 2018 National Children’s Day here in Benue, with those who, due to no fault of theirs, find themselves in an Internally Displaced Camp on a day set aside for the nation to celebrate her greatest assets, the children.
“In previous years, I have spent Children’s Day in the comfort of my office with children visiting the National Assembly, and that was fine enough.
This year, however, I decided to come here, not just to celebrate the day but to let the people of Benue know – especially the children who need us now more than ever – that you are not alone in this ordeal.
“This visit is also emblematic of our deep concern and sympathy for children and other IDPs in many other parts of Nigeria – in places such as Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – who have fallen victim to many conflicts that are destroying entire communities.
“We recognise that there are many other children and adults who do not even have the meagre luxury of IDP camps in many places in Kaduna and Zamfara states – fellow citizens who are daily exposed to bandits, robbers, kidnappers and rapists, as well as the elements.
“We chose to visit Abagena IDP Camp, to spend some time with the children and inspect the facilities, in continuation of the Senate’s search for solutions to multi-faceted crises that are stretching our security and law and order assets beyond their limits.
“Just last week, the Senate received detailed briefings from Service Chiefs and other security agencies on the nature of our current security challenges, and the ways in which we can contribute to finding solutions.
“The Senate also received the Report of the Security Summit it organised in February this year, an event that tapped into a very wide spectrum of national assets with knowledge, experience and responsibility in improving citizen, community and national security.
“What is clear is that we must fund our security agencies. We must equip and support them, if we are to bring to the barest minimum those situations that cause people to be internally displaced.
The killings going on in many parts of this country must stop. They are anathema to civilised values and cannot be tolerated,” he said.
He said the visit was important to tell the people of Benue State that they are not alone in their moment of trial.
“Benue State, in particular, has suffered terribly as a result of these senseless and murderous activities,” Saraki said, adding, “It was therefore important to come here in solidarity with the people of this state, to say: we stand with you, we are one.”
He said that the Senate has been gravely concerned about the situation for several months now, the reason it sent an Ad-hoc Committee on Security to Benue State immediately after one of the major atrocities, earlier this year.
He said: “Our interventions culminated in the briefing by Service Chiefs last week; and we remain committed to ensuring security in this state in particular.
Our efforts towards supporting effective solutions to the deteriorating security of the nation as a whole, shall be unrelenting.
“The condition of children caught in conflicts, many of whom we see here today, is particularly challenging, but the nation must never resign itself to living with this problem. This cannot become the new normal.
“Beyond millions of children in the North East who have missed out on education and vital social support for many years, there are others being deprived daily of parental care, development and security in many parts of the country.
The fate of the Nigerian child today should spur all leaders into action, to bring an end to conflicts that make victims of the most vulnerable among us.
“We need to rediscover the vision that emplaces the young as the centre piece of national development and all endeavours. A nation that does not invest in its young by protecting it, investing in its health and education and skills and hope –or building economy that should make it productive – is doomed.
“Conflicts that make women and children prime targets, sap the national energy needed to resolve them. Every adult who is confined to IDP camps represents a waste of productive resource, and resources spent on running the camps are regretfully diverted from vital investments in human capital and infrastructure.
“Internally displaced persons are taken out of productive circles and activities, and they risk becoming permanently dependent. Rebuilding lives and communities become more challenging and costly the longer the conflicts last and occupy more space in our lives.
“I appeal to us all to use this National Children’s Day to intensify efforts at finding lasting solutions to conflicts which give rise to camps such as this one.
I strongly believe we can find these solutions; and that military and police presence and activities and IDP camps are not the only solutions we need,” he said.
On his part, Governor Ortom, thanked Saraki for the visit and the the National Assembly for approving more funding security agencies.
Ortom also thanked President Buhari, for approving a full military operation in the state which has so far brought relative calm and peace to troubled areas.
In his message to mark the Children’s Day, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, said that deliberate efforts must be made to put an end to the exploitation of children across the country.
The Speaker also expressed concern that many Nigerian children are deprived of access to education and called for all hands to be on deck to correct this.
He said, “We at the House of Representatives are deeply concerned about the challenges which plague Nigerian children. Child labour, molestation and other acts of exploitation should have no place in our society and we all must work towards creating an enabling environment which allows all our children thrive.
“Many Nigerian children are on the receiving end of issues such as being subjected to domestic violence and being deprived of education.
These children are our future and this is why the House of Representatives recently adopted a motion on the need to put an end to child labour, molestation and other forms of abuse.
We are hopeful that the Executive will implement the resolutions of the House by taking the required steps and hereby call on states which are yet to, to domesticate the Child Rights Act.
“Ours is a country with one of the highest rates of children out of school in the world and the federal government in conjunction with states must design and implement policies which will change this.
Our children are our future, and the glory of this nation depends on each and every one of them being equipped with the necessary skills to contribute their quota to national development.
“Our schools must be safe, parents who live below the poverty line should be able to put children in school at no extra cost and in areas where enrolment is particularly low, incentives may be offered while parents are also made to face penalties for not enrolling their children in school. Only when all our children have access to education can we speak of breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.”