By Amos Aar
THE Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp, Anyiin, in Logo LGA of Benue State has cried out over increasing cases of child sexual abuse and forced under-age marriage in the camp.
Camp chairman, Mr Mnenge Samson, raised the alarm Tuesday when Child Right Implementation Committee (SCRIC) with the support of Sexual Offences Awareness and Responses (SOAR) visited the camp to sensitise the IDPs on the Child Rights Act signed into law by the federal government to prevent abuse of children’s right and to punish offenders.
The training which also had members of the Camp Child Protection Committee (CCPC) and Community Child Protection Committee (CCPC) as participants was part of the action plan by SCRIC to sensitise communities about the Child Rights law which has been domesticated in Benue State long ago but some people were not aware of it.
The camp chairman, Mr Samson Mnenge, said that an under-1) years old girl, whose name he said he didn’t exactly know was impregnated in the camp and the man responsible for the pregnancy was identified. But he said the victim’s father, Mr Mbaapasega Mondo, from Kemberagya/Tswarev council ward of Logo LGA forcibly gave her into marriage.
“I didn’t like it but I couldn’t stop him because we were in the camp. I knew it was against the Child Rights Act law based on the training we were given here in the past by SCRIC because the girl was a minor.
“Another similar case is about a widow, Ngunan Suega, who gave her under 18-year grand-daughter into marriage in Taraba State and collected money. We were against it but she said nobody helped her in giving birth to her daughter,” the camp chairman added.
He however observed that hunger in the camp might be responsible for such forced marriages of under-aged girls to be able to feed. According to him, some men in the camp were luring under-aged girls with money and other gifts to defile them which he also attributed to hunger.
Mr Mnenge therefore appealed to the government and humanitarian agencies to provide food and shelter for them.
“We are suffering in this camp. Look the way this place is. When rain falls, it rains on us. We don’t have food and we don’t have anywhere to go to and look for food. When we try to go to farm, Fulani herdsmen kill us.
“We are suffering from different kinds of ailments like Malaria, Hepatitis and Typhoid. But there’s no way we can treat ourselves.
“But the most important thing is that government should help us to go back to our ancestral homes where we can take care of ourselves,” he lamented and solicited.
Earlier, Director, State Ministry of Education, Mr Titus Aniho, said, the Child Rights Act was meant to protect children from abuse and that SOAR has formed a committee with members drawn from civil society organisations (CSOs), the judiciary and the media to handle such cases.
According to the director, other acts of child rights’ violation punishable by the act include denying children and wards education, gender-based violence (GBV), denying children the right to expression and to be heard.
Mr Aniho urged parents and guardians to avoid such unlawful acts against children but rather enlighten them and report to appropriate authorities when children’s rights are abused.
Fielding questions during a question and answer session as to whether the Child Rights Act was against the punishment (beating) of children by parents, at what age children should be allowed to express their opinions on key issues in their families and communities as well as what government was doing to reduce the rising rate of out-of-school children, Ainho said the punishment of children was allowed but the children should be punished appropriately. He however cautioned that if any parent, guardian or teacher does not know the rules of discipline or punishment, they should not administer it on children.
On the rate of out-of-school children, the director said basic education was supposed to be free and parents needed to be informed about it.
He also discouraged multiple levies in schools to enable indigent parents to cope with the cost of education for their children.
Speaking on the principles of child right in the society, a representative of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mercy Shawon, added that children have the right to be protected by their parents and the society; the right to be cared for, the right to protection from child trafficking, domestic violence and all forms of physical abuse.
She called for collective efforts from both parents and the society to protect the rights of children.
The kindred head of Aya East Community, Zaki Nyam Ibah, who received the SOAR team called on government to relocate IDPs out of Anyiin UBE School back to their ancestral homes so that children will have a conducive environment to learn and their parents will be able to farm and sponsor their education as it was in the past.
Zaki Ibah encouraged Tiv people to teach their children their native language to preserve the Tiv culture and to enable the children to better understand teaching in English language.