Linus Aleke and Richard Alkali:
As part of its determined effort to rid the nation of street children, the Iykon Global Foundation for Child/ Youth Care and Human Right Defense, assembled critical stakeholders in Abuja to chat the way forward.
In his opening remark at the two days conference, the Chairman of the occasion Rtd. Colonel Lawal Gwadabe bemoaned the rising wave of street children, poverty and unemployment in the country.
He however, attributed the debilitating challenges to the breakdown of moral values in the society. His words, “The breakdown of morals in our society coupled with lack of ethical orientation has a lot to do with the behavours of our children and youths. It is indeed a monumental challenge in a society where corruption is glorified and the corrupt in the society are honoured with chieftaincy tittles. They are the ones with the front seats in the churches and mosques. What does the society then expect our youths to think?
“A solution must be found quickly to ameliorate the situation, in order to contain the restiveness among the youth groups of this country.”
On his part, the National Coordinator of the Foundation, Chief Ikechukwu Nwonu expressed the need to build rehabilitation centers across the six geo-political zones of the country with the view to minimize or eradicate the menace of street children.
He described as unfortunate, a situation where unscrupulous elements in the society takes advantage of the situation to recruit and radicalize these vulnerable kids into criminality and in some cases terrorism.
He nonetheless appealed to all concerned to assist in lifting these kids off the street instead of just seating and lamenting the ugly situation.
According to him, “Let us not be the hearer of the gospel of lifting children off the street but the doer of it. These children are our children and therefore needed the optimal care for proper development into adulthood. These street children are categorized into two, those who live in the street and those who live on the street. While some of them return home to contribute to the income of their families after begging or vending on the street, the other category work and live in the street thereby making easy prey for unscrupulous groups and agent of demonic schemes. But when they are reclaimed and rehabilitated, the society will be better for all to live in.”
Nwonu also encapsulated the objectives of the conference in the following words, “To brain storm on the best approaches, challenges and strategies for protecting and rehabilitating street children in Nigeria, adding that it will be facilitated through a combination of lecture, group discussion and case studies.
In a paper entitled: ‘The Vulnerability of the Street Children and its Effect on National Development’. Professor Onyinye Nwagbara of the Nigerian Defense Academy enumerated causes of street children to include political unrest and poverty.
“The causes of this phenomenon are varied and often related to domestic, economic, or social disruption which includes but not limited to poverty, breakdown of homes or families, political unrest, acculturation, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, lured away by pimps or interment predators, mental health problems, substance abuse, and sexual orientation or gender identity issue.
“Children may end up on the streets due to cultural factors, for example, some children in part of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria and some parts of Congo and Uganda are made to leave their families because they are suspected to be witches who bring bad luck to their families, they are usually tortured and sometimes killed while the lucky ones escape home for the street, sometimes disfigured for mere perception that they are witches and agents of ill luck to their families.
“In Afghanistan, young girls who perform ‘honour crimes’ that shame their families or cultural practice- adultery,(which may include rape or sexual abuse) or who refuse an arranged marriage- may be forced to leave their home.” He elucidated.