Recently, there has been an alarming increase of child maltreatment in Nigeria. A few instances will suffice.
There was the case of Peace, a young girl rescued by the police on December 25, 2019 in Enugu State after a video of her being dragged out of a vehicle, thrown up and slammed on the bare floor went viral on social media.
For fear of losing her life, she ran to the compound gate.
Her guardian chased after her and told her to return to the car. With the prodding of another woman who tried to intercede on Peace’s behalf, she returned to the car.
Seconds after, the fiercely looking woman, grabbed her again and pounced on her repeatedly.
The culprit, Mrs. Amaka Ortolehi, her husband, Nkemakolam Ortoleh, and Peace’s uncle who gave her out as maid, Jonathan Goewan, were arrested on December 31, 2019 and arraigned before Chief Magistrate J.I. Agu of Enugu East Magisterial District, who ordered they be remanded in Enugu Correctional Centre.
On November 26, 2019, an 11-year-old maid, who was allegedly assaulted and fed with cockroaches and faeces by her madam, was rescued by an activist, Gwamnishu Harrison, in Awka, Anambra State.
She was rescued from a dungeon where she laid helpless with wounds and scars all over her face and body and immediately taken to Amaku General Hospital in Awka for medical attention.
On January 23, 2020, officers of the Rivers State Police Command interrogated a middleaged woman, Blessing Tamunokoru, for allegedly inserting pepper into the private part of a 14-yearold housemaid.
It was gathered that based on complaints from neighbours to the police over the inhuman treatment of the maid, detectives attached to the Central Police Station, Port Harcourt Township arrested Tamunokoru.
The neighbours who witnessed the regular abuse of the housemaid alerted a human rights organisation.
The suspect, however, denied inserting pepper into the girl’s private part, but admitted flogging and inflicting wounds on her.
Another case is that of 8-year-old Chiamaka Oha, who is battling for her life at the General Hospital, Uga, Anambra State. She was allegedly bathed with hot water by her employer, Ogochukwu Anichukwu.
The victim lived with her employer and her husband at their house in Nanka community, Orumba North LGA of Anambra State.
It was alleged that Anichukwu on September 25, 2020, poured hot water on the victim for licking her baby’s milk.
She then shut the door against her to prevent people from seeing the injuries. As at June 2020, the World Health Organisation reports that nearly 3 in 4 children – or 300 million children – aged 2–4 years regularly suffer physical punishment and/or psychological violence in the hands of parents and caregivers.
One in 5 women and 1 in 13 men report having been sexually abused as a child aged 0-17 years. 120 million girls and young women under 20 years of age have suffered some form of forced sexual contact.
The consequences of child maltreatment include impaired lifelong physical and mental health.
The social and occupational outcomes can ultimately slow a country’s economic and social development.
An abused child is more likely to abuse others as an adult. Violence is then passed down from one generation to the next.
Preventing and responding to child maltreatment requires a multi-sectoral approach.
The earlier such interventions occur in children’s lives, the greater the benefits to the child.
For effective and promising interventions, we recommend parent and caregiver support.
These are information and skill-building sessions to support the development of nurturing, nonviolent parenting delivered by nurses, social workers, or trained lay workers through a series of home visits or in a community setting and during natal and anti-natal visits at the hospital.
We also recommend education and life skills approaches. This is by increasing enrolment in quality education to allow children acquire knowledge, skills and experiences that build resilience and reduce risk factors for violence.
There should be programmes to prevent sexual abuse, build awareness, and teach skills to help children and adolescents understand consent, avoid, and prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and to seek help and support.
Interventions should build a positive school climate and violence-free environment, and strengthen relationships between students, teachers, and administrators.
Norms, customs, and values that allow children taken to relations for upkeep should be reviewed.
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Programmes to transform restrictive and harmful gender and social norms around child-rearing, child discipline, gender equality, and promote the nurturing role of fathers should be encouraged.
Government should implement and enforce laws. There are more than enough laws in our statues to prohibit violent punishment.