The Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) Abubakar Malami SAN, CON, has called on the Administration of Justice to treat children with care and distinguish them from adults when handling legal matters.
Malami made the call during the courtesy visit of the National Child Rights Implementation Committee led by the Hon. Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, OFR to his office on Wednesday 3rd November, 2022 in Abuja.
In his keynote address, the HAGF said, the Child justice administration is critical in any legal system due to a general recognition of vulnerability of children as such should be distinguished from adults in handling of their legal matters.
According to him, so far, 31 States of Nigeria have enacted the Child Rights Act, while five States which are yet to domesticate the law include; Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Zamfara though Kano State Government assured that the Child Rights Act would soon be passed into law before the end of 2022.
“The goal of Child Rights Act was to remedy some of the former injustices and inadequacies against children who are either in conflict with the law or in need of care and protection, with a focus on children’s right to health, education, family life, play and recreation and adequate standard of living and protection from abuse and harm.”He explained.
“However, with the horrid trends we are seeing, there is need to review the act and provide adequate protection for the rights of Children.” He further explained.
Malami informed that, the Federal Ministry of Justice in tackling some of these horrid issues and improving the child Justice system, has deployed some reformative actions such as Inaugurated the Justice for Children Coordination Forum at the Launch of the EU-UNICEF access to Justice Programme for children on move and other vulnerable children; inaugurated a 13-Man Committee on review of Borstal Institutions and Remand Centres Act 2004 LFN ON 7TH JULY, 2022.
Furthermore, the Ministry is also supporting efforts of the judiciary to establish special courts for prosecution of Gender-Based Violence cases in the country; established a SGBV Unit that deals with child victims of sexual and domestic abuse; facilitated the release of 180 children from Borstal Institutions.
He stated that the Ministry with development partners is working to support the re-integration of these children back into the society.
Furthermore, as a member of the National Child’s Implementation Committee, the Ministry is committed to working with MDAs and development partners are working to improving the child justice system in Nigeria. He added that the Ministry continues to encourage the use of non-custodial measures for children who come in contact with the law.
He enjoined the Nigeria Police Force to create more Child units as Police is the first point of contact in the Justice System.
HAGF expressed his appreciation to the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, for her landmark achievements towards contribution to women and children in Nigeria through curbing gender based violence, women empowerment and Girl Child Education amongst other.
Earlier, the Hon Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dame Pauline Tallen, who led the Committee to the HAGF’s office in her request said, the National Child’s Rights Implementation Committee (NCRIC) humbly appealed to the FMOJ to ensure that issues affecting the Rights and welfare, protection of the Nigeria Children are giving proper attention in the course of administration and dispensation of justice in Nigeria.
She appreciated HAGF and the Management Staff of the Ministry for their time despite tight schedules.
The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary (SGF/PS) Federal Ministry of Justice Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba OON, mni in her welcome remarks explained that the child rights act of 2003 is charged with several responsibilities including and in particular ensuring observance and popularization of the rights and welfare of children, effective implementation of child rights act and rights of children through international, federal and state institutions ,collating, documenting all information and all rights for the welfare of the child.
Jedy-Agba commended the Honourable Minister of Women Affairs for her drive and determination towards ensuring that issues affecting sexual and gender based violence, women empowerment and child rights act are given priority.
She assured that the ministry of justice is willing and able to support any of the initiative that they may be embarking on.
The Committee members were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Justice, Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, National Council of Child Rights, Nigerian Immigration Service, National Human Rights Commission, amongst others.