By Ishaq Dan-Imam, Lokoja
A Non-Governmental Organization, Centre for Women, Youth and Community Action (NACWYCA) in partnership with Teens Educational Development and Information Initiative (TEDiiN) has held a two-day training session with Magistrates and High Court Judges in Kogi State, North Central Nigeria, on the practice direction for child rights arbitration at the family court designated for the trial of Child Rights Offenders (CRL) in the state.
According to the President and Chief Executive Officer of TEDiiN, the implementing partner of the USAID-Sponsored SCALE project, Elder Titus Alonge said the workshop is aimed at reviewing the child rights law rules and order of procedures and Practice Direction to ensure the effective operation of the law in the state to avoid procedural violation in the course of its implementation.
Alonge said the legal document had been adjusted during the review meeting on the CRL Practice Direction to ensure effectiveness in the legal application of the law at the family Courts both at the Magistrate and High Court levels.
Hon. Justice Angelina Salihu, of Kogi State High Court, who stood in for Chief Judge of Kogi state, Justice Josiah Majebi, said the criminal cases in child rights litigation in Kogi State, were majorly rape cases.
According to the state Chief Judge, the lack of remand homes for children in conflict with the law is a setback to the implementation of the child rights law in the state and criminal justice administration with regard to child rights violations.
Justice Majebi, who made a surprise appearance at the meeting in spite of his earlier representation at the event said, “I still have to be here person even though my representative had already spoken on my behalf. I feel obliged to be part of the meeting, which is why I had to cut short my engagement to briefly interact with you participants in view of the propelling urge to safeguard the rights of our children, and that makes this event compelling to me and Kogi State Judiciary under my leadership.
“I will give all necessary support and assistance to this cause as appropriate. I’m happy and proud to be part of this auspicious event that would promote the course of Justice for the Juveniles as I urge every one of us to sustain the tempo.”
Kogi State Attorney-General (AG) and Commissioner of Justice, represented by Mr. Oyetunji Oyekaye, of the state ministry of Justice, said the Child Rights Act is an encompassing legal document concerned with a child’s vulnerability and protection, accommodated under the administration of criminal Justice Law.
The AG said despite all progress attained in human rights protection in Nigeria, the country still lags behind in the implementation of international conventions on human rights and stressed the need for greater commitment to international conventions on human rights.
Kogi State has 9 family Courts in 7 zones in the state while the stakeholders agitate for the creation of additional family Courts to complement the existing special courts for Juveniles; even as the contentious issue of appropriate ministry where the state Child Rights Act ought to be domiciled remains unresolved as the Justice Ministry seemingly evaded the matter at the event.
According to the officials of the State Ministry of Women Affairs at the workshop, the state child rights law is presently domiciled with the state ministry of Justice instead of the ministry of women affairs as done in other states.
According to the rules and order of procedures encapsulated in the legal document, ” In every criminal proceeding in which a child is involved, the court shall ensure that words like “Conviction” and “Sentence” or other words offensive to the child are not used in the proceedings.”
Highpoint of the workshop is the review of the procedure for child adoption and fostering, where applicants for child adoption in the state, now must apply to the family court rather than the ministry of women’s affairs, which previously received the application for child adoption, whereas a child of Kogi State origin cannot be taken out of Kogi State for purposes of adoption without the consent of the family court, and an adopter of a child must reside in the state.