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Banjul, 29 November 2022: Incorporated Trustees of ISH-61 Human Rights and Social Justice Initiative (ISH-61), IHRDA and Centre for Human Rights – University of Pretoria, South Africa, 25 November 2022, filed a communication against the Federal Republic of Nigeria before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), alleging Nigeria’s failure to adopt and enact a legal framework that protects the rights of all children in the entire Federation.

Nigeria ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Charter) in July 2001, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in April 1991. Nigeria then proceeded to domesticate these treaties by enacting the Child’s Rights Act (CRA) in 2003, which made provisions for the promotion and protection of the rights of children. Only 29 of 36 federated states in Nigeria have enacted laws that give effect to the CRA. This is largely due to the principle of federalism enshrined in Nigeria’s Constitution, which gives legislative competence on children’s issues to the respective state governments. Without the state government’s enactment, the provisions of the CRA will not apply to children resident in such states.

The seven states where the CRA is yet to be enacted into state law argue that its provisions contradict cultural norms and Islamic law. Some states which enacted the CRA have watered down some of its provisions, such as the prescription of 18 years as the minimum age for marriage. This has given rise to potential violation and real violation of the rights of children, notably child marriage and denial of free and compulsory basic education, in contravention of the Charter.

The Complainants allege that Nigeria has failed in its duty to adopt legislative measures to protect the rights enshrined in the Charter, and to ensure non-discriminatory application of child protection law to all children in the entire Federation, as provided for by the Charter and other human rights instruments ratified by Nigeria.

The Complainants request the ACERWC to hold Nigeria responsible for the said allegations, and to urge Nigeria to enact and implement legislation which provides uniform protection of the rights of all children in Nigeria, and amend its Constitution by expressly providing 18 years as the minimum age for any marriage, including customary and Islamic marriages.

UPDATES:

  • 12 Dec 2023: ACERWC notifies Plaintiffs of its decision on admissibility, declaring the case admissible.