On December 7, 2022, the House of Representatives passed a bill titled, “Act to Re-amend the Child Rights Act, Cap. C50, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”, for second reading.
This bill ensures children won’t be abandoned whenever or wherever they’re born. Parents found guilty of abandoning children would either be fined a sum of ₦200k, sent to prison for six months or both.
This is definitely a good step by the government to tackle a very serious problem, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact they may have failed to take certain things into consideration before this bill.
We still have archaic abortion laws
On October 8, 2019, a one-day-old baby was found in a refuse dump covered with maggots in Lokoja, Kogi State. Fortunately, the baby survived because residents took her to a specialist hospital for treatment. When the government found the mother of the baby, she refused to take her back. The baby ended up in an orphanage.
In 2017, the Lagos State government rescued about 237 abandoned babies, and one of the reasons these things will continue to happen is the country has refused to reform its abortion laws. Nigerian women don’t have a legal second option when they end up with unwanted pregnancies.
Our anti-abortion laws put women found guilty of violating it at risk of seven years in jail. So, these women are left with the possibility of either abandoning the child or illegally terminating the pregnancies at the risk of their lives.
We need better welfare programmes
During the passing of the bill for a second reading, lawmakers discussed the need for Nigeria to develop something similar to America’s social security system. Nigeria currently has over 17 million orphans and vulnerable children, some of them abandoned as children. They still struggle daily to access food, shelter, education, protection, and care. What’s the government currently doing to address the problem with functional social welfare services?
We need a working economy
Poverty is another reason parents choose to abandon their children. On April 21, 2020, a six-month-old baby was found by the roadside with a note from the mother saying she had no means to care for her. For those who decide not to abandon the child, they try to sell them off at a baby factory.
With the level of inflation in the country now and the price of things increasing almost every week, life must be especially difficult for those who struggle to make ends meet, how much more so for a new mother.
So while lawmakers make laws, they must realise the trend of parents abandoning children has more to do with a failing system than wickedness. They should first try to take out the log in their eyes before throwing these people into prison.