Rights of a Child: Every appropriate action and responsibility bestowed on any human being under the age of 18, “… whether undertaken by an individual , public or private body, institutions or service, court of law, or administrative or legislative” and by which “… the best interest of the child shall be the primary consideration” (Nigerian Child’s Rights Act, 2003).
The legal rights of the Nigerian child are contained in various municipal laws and international instruments. These laws are based on certain fundamental principles relating to the promotion of human survival, prevention of harm, promotion and sustenance of human dignity and the enhancement of human development. These principles recognize the basic concept that the child is the foundation of the society and he or she assures its continuity. Accordingly, the survival and continuity of the human society depends upon the protection, preservation, nurture and development of the child. The word Right is derived from the Latin word rectus which means correct, straight, right as opposed to wrong. It may also mean in accord with law, morality and justice.
As a norm, it may mean that to which a person has just and valid claim, whether it be land, or privilege of doing something or saying something such as the right of free speech. A right in its general sense is either the liberty (protected by law) of acting or abstaining from acting in a certain manner, or the power (enforced by law) of compelling a specific person to do or abstain from doing a particular thing. Accordingly, a Legal Right is the capacity residing in one person of controlling, with the assent and the assistance of the State, the action of others. Thus, every right involves a person invested with the right, or the person entitled, a person or persons on whom that right imposes a correlative duty or obligation; an act of forbearance which is the subject matter of right and in some cases an object, that is, a person or thing to which the right has reference, as in the case of ownership.
Article I of the U.N. Convention defines a child is every human being below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. Recognizing that the United Nations has, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenants on Human Rights, proclaimed and agreed that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, Recalling that, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.
Convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children, should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community, Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity. Bearing in mind that, as indicated in the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”
Okusaga Raphael works with St. Patrick’s Missionary society as Child safeguarding officer, District of West Africa, Maryland, Lagos.