By; ALEX UANGBAOJE, Kaduna
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Wednesday expressed deep concerns over the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to ten years’ imprisonment with menial labour by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, in Northern Nigeria.
The sentence was handed down after he was convicted of blasphemy on August 10, 2020.
According to UNICEF in a statement signed by Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, made available to newsmen, “the sentencing of this child – 13-year-old Omar Farouk – to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.
“It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to.”
The statement noted that, “the sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991.
“It is also a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development.”
UNICEF called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano State Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.
UNICEF expressed appreciation of the strides recently made by the Kano State Government to pass the Kano State Child Protection Bill.
The statement quoted Peter Hawkins, its Country Representative in Nigeria as saying, “this case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including Omar Farouq are protected – and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards.
“l continue to provide support the Nigerian Government and Kano State Government on child protection system strengthening, including justice sector reform, to ensure that states put in place child-sensitive measures to handle cases involving children.
“This includes adopting alternative measures, in line with international best practice, for the treatment of children alleged to have committed offences that does not involve detention or deprivation of family care.
“The child rights organization stressed the Government’s international obligations to ensure child-sensitive judicial measures for children who are alleged to have committed any offence.
“This should include ensuring quality legal representation and full implementation of child justice principles – all of which are geared towards reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of the child with their family and community.”