Illusions Of Care For Nigerian Child

President Nigeria

Nigerian President

The June 1 letter from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, asking President Goodluck Jonathan to obey the ECOWAS  Court of Justice ruling that makes education of the Nigerian child a right, it is the latest effort in the new direction the quest for social justice is taking.

A November 2010 ruling of the ECOWAS Court ordered the Nigerian government to make adequate provisions for the compulsory and free education of every child immediately and ensure that corruption did not undermine the right to education. The court further ruled that the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, had responsibility to ensure funds appropriated for basic education were properly used for the purpose.

What would stun most Nigerians was the comprehensive nature of the judgement. The court noted the evidence of embezzlement of UBEC funds based on the reports of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC.

In order to dissuade the government from using inadequate funds as excuse for not implementing the judgment, the court asked the Nigerian government to provide the funds necessary to cover the shortfall theft in UBEC could have caused, in order to avoid denying any of its people the right to education.

Neither the Federal Government, with its passions about the importance of the Nigerian child, nor UBEC, has reacted to the judgment, which under ECOWAS protocols is final and not subject to appeal.

On 4 March 2011, SERAP wrote to the ECOWAS Court asking it to enforce the judgement, pursuant to Article 24 (2) (3) of the Supplementary Protocol of the ECOWAS Court.

According to the article, “Execution of any judgment of the Court shall be in the form of a writ of execution, which shall be submitted by the Registrar of the Court to the relevant Member State for execution according to the rules of civil procedure of that Member State. Upon the verification by the appointed authority of recipient Member State that the writ is from the Court, the writ shall be enforced.”

SERAP has concerns, as should anyone who cares for the future of the country. According to SERAP in its letter to the ECOWAS Court, “five million Nigerian children of school age have no access to primary education, 115 million adults are illiterate.”

Article 15(4) of the ECOWAS Treaty makes the judgment of the court binding on member states, institutions of the community and individuals and corporate bodies and Article 76 (2) provides for the finality of the decision of the court.

How would Nigeria wriggle out of this judgement?

President Jonathan is current Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS. Will he disobey a decision of the court? “By the judgment, your government is required to review the effectiveness of the existing domestic legal and constitutional remedies for the enforcement of the human right to education, and to take steps to address structural or general deficiencies in national law or practice,” SERAP said.

The ECOWAS Court judgement is a final confirmation of the failure of Nigeria’s Child Rights Act that was passed in 2003. If eight years on, compulsory and free education for the Nigerian child, as the Act provides is an illusion, we probably need ECOWAS to nudge us into action.

Culled from Vanguard Newspaper

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