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President Muhammadu Buhari has charged Nigerians to ensure the safety of children by taking urgent actions against the increasing violence against them in the country, just as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State has also called on parents to devote greater time to their children.
The charges came in separate messages made by the President and the Governor at different times on the occasion of today’s celebration of this year’s Children’s Day.
President Buhari in his message stated: “May I therefore call 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. We must ensure safety of our children in homes, schools, markets, worship centres, on the streets and everywhere at all times.
“Furthermore, let me use this medium to appeal to 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. It also increases literacy and reduces poverty. The saying that to educate a woman is to educate the nation is very apt in this regard.”
He said Children’s Day offered an opportunity to re-affirm government’s commitment to the protection of children, reflect on the roles and responsibilities as parents and leaders towards the children, even as it also offered an opportunity to assess how well the government had fared in that regard.
Explaining that the provision of quality education to children was one of the cardinal objectives of his administration as a fundamental foundation of economic and social development, noting that his government had recorded measurable success in the home grown school feeding programme.
The programme, which he said had continued to expand, was to prepare a future generation of physically and intellectually robust children, pointing out that as children, they remained the nation’s future and the initiatives that came from them gave confidence that the country had a bright future.
He said his government had been committed to the school feeding programme in schools because he had been impressed by what they (children) had been able to do, and what the future held for them. He said, 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 then call for support of the programme.
President Buhari said since its inception in May, 2015, his administration had also focused attention on addressing issues of child protection, participation and survival.
Pointing out that the campaign to end violence against children was launched in 2015, He said: “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. These campaigns have been reinforced with sensitisation campaigns in some states of the federation.
“The theme for this year’s celebration “Creating Safe Spaces for Children: Our Collective Responsibility” is an opportunity to promote the safety and security of our children. 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,” the president said.
He said his government had made giant strides in the protection of the Rights of the Nigerian Child and as a result of such efforts, Nigeria had been declared a Pathfinding Country on Ending Violence Against Children.
He said in its efforts to protect Nigerian children from abuse, exploitation and trafficking as well as provide safe, non-violent inclusive and effective learning environment in schools, his government had directed the management of all Federal Government Colleges and advised all state owned schools across the country to provide adequate measures of safety and security of their students.
“I again call 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,” the president said.
Governor Okowa while callin on parents to devote greater time to their children, said: “Parents and caregivers, should devote greater time, and attention to the children, we must not leave the upbringing and character formation of our children to teachers alone; we should take greater responsibility for the sake of their protection, wellbeing and the orderliness of society at large.”
The Governor at the celebration which featured march past, cultural dance, modelling, among others in Asaba lauded the theme for this year’s celebration, ‘Creating Safe Spaces for Children: Our Collective Responsibility,’ stated, “this administration has placed a high premium on the total development and protection of children on which the continuous existence and progress of the State and nation depend.
“This year’s theme is meant to sensitize government, stakeholders and other duty bearers on the crucial need to strategize on ways of creating a protective, violence free and safe spaces for every child in Delta State,” the Governor said, adding, “we start the care of the child from when it has not been born through the free maternal care and free medicare from the earliest stage till the child is five years; we do this conscious that it is the most sensitive period of a child’s life.”
He continued, “This administration through our SMART agenda, has taken various actions aimed at improving the welfare and security of our future generation, we do not want to give them fish, we are teaching them how to fish through the acquisition of skills with the aim of making them entrepreneurs and the results are beginning to bear fruit.“
Okowa, who decried the level of abuses against children “ranging from rape, defilement, sexual exploitation, cultism, child trafficking, child labour, to mention a few,” asserted, “the situation calls for more concerted efforts of all and sundry to take proactive measures and increase the consciousness of providing safe and very secure spaces for our children to grow up in the midst of genuine and selfless love, care and attention.”
He emphasised, “I wish to appeal to all duty bearers to actively promote the ideals of the Childs Rights Law, bearing in mind that we are accountable to God on how we discharge our obligations to our children, knowing very well that our future as a State and nation, will be defined by the quality of today’s children.”
High point of the celebration was the feeding of the children by members of the 05 Initiative led by Dame Edith Okowa.
Earlier in a church service, guest preacher, Master Chibuzor Promise urged parents to create safe spaces for their children, bring them up in the way of the Lord so as they can make good choices in life.
Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, Rt, Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori, members of the National Assembly, among other political office holders and cross section of the society attended the event.