Child abuse: What really is the problem?

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Child abuse is a phenomenon that has become endemic in cities, towns and villages and is attributable to many causes and factors, depending on the perspective from which one looks at the issue, in terms of socio-economic, religious, cultural and environmental factors.

The economic challenges characterised by the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria today, has subjected many families into hardship making it difficult or even impossible for some families to afford three square meals per day. What is entirely a new phenomenon in the society today is a situation where parents abandon their children due to lack of economic muscle to shoulder their responsibilities, or because the pregnancy was conceived out of wedlock.

On the contrary, the phenomenon in Southern Nigeria is even more worrisome as many houses christened as baby factories have been uncovered and raided by security operatives. What is happening in the said baby factories are barbaric and ungodly. Imagine young girls of ages 13 to 25 years kept or secluded in a house only for men to be hired to impregnate them so that the babies are sold at prices ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 naira.

The question here is what are they (babies) used for, rituals or eating as meat just like beef or folk, and what happened to the animal the Almighty God has endowed NIgeria with, that have never become extinct in spite of the daily consumption rate? Victims of child abuse are mostly children of broken homes whose care were entrusted in the hands of their step-mothers who instead of justifying the confidence reposed in them by entrusting the care of their co-wives in their hands, choose to maltreat them as a way of either paying back what the co-wife has done them or as a way of provoking the husbands who are mostly hypnotized that they cannot take any action to save the children from the torment of heartless step-mothers..   

It is becoming more disheartening and a source of concern how some parents maltreat their children nowadays, especially looking at the rate at which such ugly incidences are happening around the country. Only recently the media reported a woman who had tied her step-son for seven years in animal dane and another who had also incarcerate her step-son for 15 years without the father taking any action to save the child, making one to begin to contemplate a connivance between the couples in committing the crime.

All these issues of child abuse are happening at a time when some are eager and desperate with constant prayers and supplications seeking for the fruit of the womb from the Almighty Allah as they have stayed for long without having a child of their own, while some have the financial capability do travel abroad to undergo artificial insemination or surrogate. Many couples/parents are grieving for lack of a child, because children are a blessing to parents and every child comes with the blessing God bestowed on him/her.On August 12, 2020, police rescued a 10-year-old Jibril Aliyu detained by his father in animal stall. On August 14, 30-year-old Ahmed Aminu was also been detained for two years and on August 20 police also rescued a 55-year-old man in Kano who was detained for 30 years because they were suspecting him to have mental illness. Similarly, on that fateful day 45-year-old Salisu Mohammed was also detained by the relatives of his parents for 25 years, saying he is suffering from mental illness.   

One phenomenon that can be attributed to so many factors was that of three children between ages seven and nine who were abandoned in an uncompleted building in Kukareta. Dissatisfied with the location, the children decided to trek to Damaturu, about 30 kilometres, in search of solace. Their decision was based on their realisation of the fact that the Kukareta is a community of poor persons while Damaturu particularly the Redbricks estate is an estate occupied by well to do persons as such access to food is easier than in Kukareta.The elder sister of the three siblings who speaks only Fulfulde language said they hail from Mafa, Borno state while their mother is in Garkida in Adamawa state, and their father brought them to Kukareta and gave them N5,000 to take care of themselves and flee to an unknown destination. 

In a similar circumstance, a man in Ilorin, Kwara state abandoned his wife and two daughters because they have blue eyes, and the video of the woman and the two daughters went viral on social media platforms. This was the wisdom behind recent proclamation by the deposed Emir of Kano Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, when he opined that men should stop giving birth to children they cannot cater for. The problem is not about getting married or giving birth to too many children, but rather how to take responsibility in terms of feeding, shelter, clothing, education, and other needs of the children.

Some Islamic scholars have contributed to the escalation of such situations by misquoting certain tradition of the holy prophet which is not in anyway a sound hadith which says that once upon a time, a man came to the holy prophet and complained to him that he has been suffering from poverty and the holy prophet asked him to go and marry another wife to make two. The man went and married a second wife and yet the poverty didn’t subside as such he returned to the prophet to explain to him and the prophet kept on asking him to add wives until he added three to the existing ones to make four wives. In a nutshell, that hadith has been adjudged by Islamic scholars with vast knowledge of the Hadith as not sound. Some people particularly who have great misconception of the almajiri system see all children roaming the streets begging for food as almajiri, but on the contrary they are children who lack parental care and love.

Such parents instead of training their children to learn some vocational skills like tailoring, carpentry, masonry etc, they allow them to provide for themselves regardless of the means.As a result their daughters take to prostitution, the male children take to burglary, theft, pick pocketing, homosexuality and even get recruited by  violent extremists organizations like Boko Haram and ISWAP. The society itself has failed to address the needs of  the vulnerable children, making them feel socially excluded, morally retarded and marginalized.
 The rate of divorce is also very high in Northern Nigeria and this is not unconnected with the prevalence of polygamy and flagrant disregard for the needs and rights of women and children. Imagine a civil servant on lower cadre like messenger who earns  a little over N30,000 but has more than a wife and about ten children living in a rented two-room apartment.

It is imperative if men will always place the interest and welfare of their families above their sexual urge, while at the same time embracing family planning as a way of ensuring that their income is commensurate with their family sizes. Parents should also ensure that they send their children to school.  Neighbours should also play their role in complementing the parents in giving children moral education, value reorientation and building a better future for the children of their neighbours because if the children of the neighbours become irresponsible it will also affect their children through peer group influence.

Government at all levels should take responsibility of providing jobs, employment opportunities and welfare of the citizens.
Jibril Mohammed Nabil,Serving Corps Member,Damaturu, Yobe state. 

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