By Muawuya Bala Idris
The child protection bill was recently passed by Katsina State House of Assembly and signed into law by the state governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari.
The bill was earlier sent to the House in 2004, after passing through first and second readings at the floor of the House. The passage of the bill became stalemate due to criticisms by section of Islamic Ulama and other stakeholders on the content of the bill. The Islamic Ulama insisted that the content of the bill was contrary to Islamic rules, culture and norms of the people of the state.
According to them, the bill was alien to the state and should be rejected in totality. The stance of the Ulama on the issue forced the lawmakers to suspend deliberation on it and put it into hold.
However, 10 years after Governor Masari resent the bill to the assembly for deliberation and passage, the act motivated a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) known as ‘Save The Children International (SCI)’ to commence lobbying with a view to influencing a special committee set up by the state assembly under the leadership of Hon. Musa Nuhu Gafiya to study the bill and make recommendation.
The NGO also constituted a committee of prominent indigenes with expertise in various fields of endeavors to amend the bill in line with the culture and the tradition of the people of the state. The committee led by former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Sadiq Mahuta, spent six months to come up with an acceptable document.
The Justice Mahuta Committee conducted its assignment in collaboration with officials of the state Ministry of Justice, members of SII, Civil Society Organizations and other relevant stakeholders. It later forwarded the document to the assembly for deliberation.
It is important to note that the passage of the bill and its signing into law by the state governor, Alhaji Masari, came at the right time considering the high cases of child abuses facing the state.
The state is witnessing increase in rape, child labour, child punishment and denial for children to have access to education.
It is on record that children in the state, under the age of one to 12 years are victims of rape.
According to police authority, the state recorded 300 cases of rape in 2020. The most celebrated case of rape, is that of 12-year-old Hadiza Ibrahim.
She was raped and later impregnated by her principal. Another victim was 15-year-old Aisha Dahiru, who was raped as well impregnated by two Customs officers.
Both cases of Hadiza and Aisha were only two examples out of hundreds of under-age rape victims.
Another problem facing the state is child labour. It is unfortunate that even children at their various homes are victims of child labour by either their parents or neighbours.
They are forced for child hawking, trafficking and became home keepers. Children of Almajiri school system are mostly the victims of child labour.
Now that the children protection bill is signed into law, it became necessary for the implementation of the law to address these problems in order to save the future of the children.
Relevant stakeholders such as journalists, NGOs, civil societies have a great role to play to push for the implementation of the law.
The relevant ministries as well as the state assembly must ensure that all relevant sections of the law are implemented to punish rapists and other people promoting child abuse.
Idris is our correspondent in Katsina.