In ANYTHING on April 13, 2012 at 11:42 am




Missing Children: Parents and Government Are Negligent —Debo Adeniran

Debo Adeniran, a consultant educationalist is head, Strategy Committee, Centre for Constitutional Governance, CCG and national coordinator, Child Help In Leadership, Democracy, Rights and Education in Nigeria, CHILDREN, Project. Concerned about the dearth of record of missing children in Nigeria, Adeniran explains to Bayo Akinloye the inadequacy of the home and failure of government at all levels to protect the Nigerian child.


What would you say is the root cause of missing children in Nigeria?

The economic hardships experienced in the country today, reduce parental care children receive. Sometimes, these parents impose certain financial targets on their children, especially those who help them to hawk. The children in their bid to meet the targets get missing on their way; or lose the proceeds of their sales for the day. And find it difficult to return to their homes. Parental values have diminished over the years. No more do parents see children as precious gifts. Many parents because of economic hardship no longer spend time with the children.

Sometimes the children wander away from the view of their parents. Therefore, the children just wander around. Even when these children are missing the parents don’t adequately search for them before they give up. At times they even don’t report to the police. They assume they cannot get anything done with the police because they do not have the money to pay; the same thing with the media. So because of these, many parents become (unwittingly) careless about their own children.



So, the responsibility of child protection rests solely on the parents?

If parental negligence is to be blamed for missing children, it is as much as the government’s failure to accord the Nigerian child the right to protection. Every child in Nigeria has a right to be protected. Because there are no adequate plans or mechanisms by which the government can protect the Nigerian child, they are left in the hands of inadequately equipped parents and schools.

The country doesn’t a deliberate plan to protect the right of the Nigerian child. Education is supposed to be compulsory for every child and supposed to be a compulsory right to be observed by the children. But most governments don’t even recognize the convention on the rights of the child. These street children are mostly ones who stray away from the watchful eyes of their parents….and because there are no monitoring mechanisms to take care of these children they are allowed to wander about until they become area boys, mature to thieves and eventually become hired assassins.

So in effect the problem has been growing year-in, year-out without abating. If the parents have given their children adequate care and attention, if the social welfare department of the government agency has been up and doing, if street children has been outlawed, if anyone peddling in child labour has been prosecuted, the number of missing children will be reduced.


Can the news media help?

More so, the 4th estate of the realm has been doing their own part. The media has the responsibility to keep reporting on the protection of the Nigerian child on a daily basis. As such parents will be made to be on their toes for they will be held responsible for the negligence of their children to be on the street.


Do you have any figure as to how many children got missing in Nigeria?

The National Bureau of Statistics doesn’t have any record to show number of missing children in Nigeria – not even an inaccurate figure. They don’t keep such records. Even when you go to the police station to request for records of missing children, they’ll tell you missing children are not their business. A couple of children you find in the custody of the welfare centres aren’t the result of concerted efforts made by neither the welfare system nor the police but came about through the kindness of some good Samaritans.


This neglect on the part of parents and governments how does it affect the kids?

All of this doesn’t give the Nigerian child the feeling of self-worth. They view themselves as persons without a future. They conclude that the adult world really don’t care about their existence. They see themselves as an unwanted lot in the society. They thus become veritable tools in the hand of groups like Boko Haram. For the Almajiris, it’s a life of no worth; they’re children of no fixed address. They just roam about. In the south, you see many of them at motor parks. When such children are female, they easily fall into the pit of prostitution. They also become fertile ground for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, STDs.


What short-term measures should be taken?

It’s for the law enforcement agency to ensure that children are eligible to go to school aren’t allowed to roam the streets. Second, especially in the north where Koranic school is in vogue, there should some injection of western education in the curriculum so that when they get out they can proceed. Another short-term measure will be that parents must be held responsible and punished for child neglect.


What long-term measures to counteract this precarious challenge of child protection?

All the charters and conventions protecting the rights of the child should be domesticated by the federal government and the 36 states of the federation. The neglect of the Nigerian child should become a crime against humanity. There should be well-equipped welfare centres to take care of children who by one misfortune or the other find themselves on the street, well-trained law enforcement agency that is prepared to protect the Nigerian child against danger and exploitation. In addition, all state governments must be compelled to provide adequate schools that make going to school a pleasure for eligible children.

  1. It is very shameful that the tradition of child neglect and exploitation that have become cankerworms eating deep into our societies has continued unabated. It is this same malady that is creating incessant cases of rape of young ones that we now hear everyday. This is really heartbroken and I sincerely wish every parent will take charge of charting good lives for their children and that the government of Nigerian will consider a lasting and permanent solution.

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