By Lucy Osuizigbo
Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Thursday expressed worry that divorce exposed children to abuse and neglect and hinder their effective development.
Ambode made the observation at the National Conference of Family Court Judges and Magistrates in Lagos.
The conference had the theme: “A Critical Appraisal of the Impact and Role of Family Courts in the Administration of Justice in Nigeria’’.
Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, said that over 10 million Nigerian children were homeless or exposed to vices.
According to him, this trend can be traced to economic challenges that have rendered many families helpless and susceptible to separation.
“Our administration strongly believes in the Child Rights Act; we have a responsibility to ensure that no child is unduly deprived of the basic necessities of life.
“Lagos State Government decries the act of violence done against any person which was why it provided proactive reforms in the justice sector to handle incidents of abandonment, domestic assault, child abuse and sexual violation through counselling and prosecution.
“I commend the performance of the judiciary in Lagos, and urge it to rise up to the challenges in the fast-evolving era,’’ he said.
The governor also urged the judiciary to adopt necessary technologies for effective justice delivery.
In his address, the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, said that children were the future of any nation and should be adequately protected.
“Lagos State Government established the Family Courts to protect the rights of children as well as protect our family values.
“This is to bring hope, justice and peace to the oppressed and vulnerable in the society, especially women and children,’’ Kazeem said.
Also speaking, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade, the Chief Judge, decried increasing spate of child molestation, rape, juvenile delinquency, child labour and other forms of violence against children.
Atilade said that the conference brought together judges and magistrates to drive for improved justice administration and welfare for children.
She also said that there was the need to protect family values, culture and norms, as the family was a crucial unit in the society.
The Country Representative of UNICEF, Mr Emmanuel Rossini, said that six out of 10 children suffered one form of violence or the other.
Rossini said that five per cent of the reported cases of violence against children received adequate help.
He commended Lagos State Government for `taking child justice from paper to practice’ through establishment of Family Courts, training of personnel and provision of models for child protection system in the state.
In her keynote address, Justice Yetunde Idowu, Head, Family Court, Lagos State, said that inadequacy of personnel in the administration of juvenile justice was a major challenge.
“Many hands are needed to be empowered to contribute to the effective running of the system.
“Another problem is lack of effective partnership with the media to ensure that serious violations of child rights are brought to the public domain and to the attention of state or private officials,’’ she said.