The UNICEF, and European Union (EU) are collaborating with the Kaduna State Government to provide access to justice for vulnerable children, and those on the move, including the Almajiri child.
Dr Wilfred Mamah, UNICEF Child Protection Specialist, Kaduna Office, made this known at a media engagement on Sunday in Kaduna.
He explained that the project was being run through the state Ministry of Human Services and Social Development to provide protection for children, who lacked parental care and were often neglected by society.
Mamah said the project was a global partnership, and would also run in Kano and Sokoto states.
“This intervention is a partnership with UNICEF, and European Union working to strengthen access to justice in six countries, including Nigeria.
“One of the greatest challenges is the issue of Almajiri children, who are also children on the move.
“Children on the move are often exposed to violence, abuse and neglect because they do not have parental care and they struggle to have access to justice.
“Even as survivors, they struggle to have access to justice, even when violated or fall victim in conflict with the law,” he said.
According to him, when children are deprived, and lack parental or societal care, their likelihood of offending the law becomes high.
The child protection specialist explained that the project would provide alternative care to vulnerable children, and those on the move in Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Chikun, and Igabi local government areas of the state.
He said that centres would be set up in the four local government areas to provide correctional aid and treatment for children that commit offences.
“We expect that if we succeed in this, it will be replicated in other local governments.
“Every community should know that when children commit an offence, it’s not just to go and imprison them, but should be handled differently. Imprisonment should be the last resort,” he said.
According to him, a Justice for Children Forum has been inaugurated comprising key actors in the justice system in the state, to coordinate the project.
The UNICEF official said that the coordination forum was mandated to be an advocate for justice.
“We have achieved greater success in that direction with the establishment of the state Family Court.
“The family court will be handled by trained professionals, called Assessors or social welfare experts, who will give therapist response to the crime.
“In that therapy, the law is looking on how to handle these children differently from the way adults are handled, starting from the point of the investigation,” he said.
He added that with the establishment of the court, the children will have a functional and friendly justice system.
Mamah appreciated the Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hajiya Hafsat Baba, for championing the partnership, which facilitated the establishment of the justice for children coordination forum.
He called on the media to play its role by making society understand that children, who committed offence, should not be treated as adults or imprisoned.
The specialist also urged the media to continue advocating for the state government to always have a budget line for children’s issues, to enable the ministry to handle children’s welfare effectively.
Mamah said that when children on the move were captured early, they could be turned into a resource for the development of the state. (NAN)