By PATRICK ABANG, Calabar –
A human rights activists, James Ibor, says vulnerable children have access to justice and protection in the country.
Ibor said mechanism has put in place to support the implementation of the Child Rights Act in Akwa Ibom State and ensure that those guilty of child abuse are held to account.
He stated this during a two-day training for judges and magistrates organized by The Akwa-Ibom State Judiciary in Uyo on 17th and 18th July, 2023.
The theme of the training, which was held in collaboration with the UK charity, Safe Child Africa, was “enhancing skills for better child protection”.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Child Rights Act, 2003, was adapted in Akwa Ibom State in 2008. It was particularly unique in that it criminalised the act of branding children as witches or wizards.
Following this, in 2014, the state government set up the family courts as a key plank of the implementation of the Child Rights Act and to tackle cases of witchcraft accusations in the state.
In his remarks, Chairman of Trustees of Safe Child Africa, Gary Foxcroft, said : “We are humbled and grateful to support this important initiative. I would love to commend the Chief Judge, Ekaette Obot, for enabling this groundbreaking training to take place and Justice Theresa Obot for the leadership she has shown in helping make it happen.
“We hope that this event will go some way to helping ensure that vulnerable and stigmatised children have access to justice and protection”.
Foxcroft was one of the lead coordinators of the coalition of groups who worked hard to ensure that the United Nations passed a resolution on The Elimination of Harmful Practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks in 2021.
The resolution states that “harmful practices related to witchcraft accusations and ritual attacks globally have resulted in various forms of violence, including killings, mutilation, burning, coercion in the trafficking of persons, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and stigmatization”.
One of the key speakers at the training in Uyo, Barrister James Ibor, was also part of the coalition and said: “ Regular training such as this is essential if judges and magistrates are to be properly supported with developing the skills and understanding of key issues that are needed to help secure prosecutions of those who are guilty of abusing the rights of children.
“I hope that the key stakeholders will continue with this collaboration so that children who have been raped, trafficked, abandoned or accused of witchcraft can have access to the justice that they so richly deserve”.