By Obeten Godfrey, Patrick Obia and Rose Ofem
A total of 53 street children are currently undergoing a course to aid their re-integration into their homes and foster homes through camp activities in order to prepare them for unification with their blood relatives or foster careers.
The exercise which began last week is expected to last for 21 days and is an initiative of several nongovernmental organisations including the Basic Rights Counsel Initiative (BRCI), United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Society For Youth Development and Rescue Initiative (SYDRI), and the Cross River State government.
At the flag off of the course, the commissioner of sustainable development and social welfare, Mr. Oliver Orok who was represented by the Director of Social Welfare in the ministry, Mrs. Uduak Elizabeth, commended the organizers of the camp and partners for their continuous fight in assisting kids out of the streets.
“Your being here today is to see the surface of seeing the success of claiming our children from the dark world is not a mistake. Together with you all we are expected to help these children, by helping and teaching them the right way of living. Presently, this camping is to acquaint the children with the necessary skills to enable them meet up with the basic needs of the society. All children need to be in a family and this is the purpose of this program. They are the future leaders of tomorrow.
“I want to thank UNICEF immensely and other voluntary bodies for caring for these vulnerable children in our midst. I implore the children to be of good behavior\ in whatever place they may find themselves as from today. The government will continue to assist these children,” Orok said.
The head, Enugu field office of UNICEF, Ibrahim Conteh in his remarks applauded the government of Cross River State and other civil society organizations for their efforts of bringing out the kids from the streets and integrating them back to the society.
Conteh decried the statistics which show a high number of parents casting their children away from their homes due to one accusation or the other. He therefore beseeched them from doing so adding that no one has the right to infringe on the rights of children.
“You all know that UNICEF need to come back to government and government has a responsibility. The welfare of everybody in a nation is a direct responsibility of the government. These children you see here today have the right to claim their rights. It is very touching for people to pray, sometimes you pray very hard for God to give you a child and when that child come from your own womb, you classify that child as not being a normal child. That’s so unfortunate.
“If we leave these children behind, who knows if they will be the next Buhari, Obasanjo, the next Atiku or the Ayade of Cross River State? We don’t know because they are all children, they have all the potentials to be like any other political leader, any other doctor, any other lawyer? Therefore, we need to invest more of all we have and find a way to make sure these children all are not on the streets,” Conteh said.
The camp has activities such as aerobics, free medical check-ups amongst other. And, one of the inmates, Master Emmanuel Etim who spoke on behalf of others commended the NGOs and government for bringing them out of the streets and promised that they will not go back to the street anymore.
In a related development, the commissioner for youth and sports development in the State, Mr. Asu Okang has charged youths to desist from being used as tools for electoral violence.
Okang who stated this during an ‘I Pledge To Vote’ concert organized buy a civic tech startup, ‘CrowdPol in Calabar on January 20, 2018 also said there is no better time for youths to clamor for good governance other than through the forthcoming elections as it was without doubt that the leadership of the country may not have clearly represented the aspirations of the younger generation.
“We are also aware that even as at yesterday, there has been a lot of violent activities been orchestrated by certain quarters. As at two days ago or day before yesterday, some young people went to the extent of matcheting other young people,” Okang said, adding that in his last visit to a medical facility in Calabar, there were, “two young people lying in very critical conditions there, two more are on their way to Calabar you know in a pool blood, a pool of blood; just swimming in their own pool of blood. Is that what we bargained for?”
He continued: “For the people who are shifting, who are pushing, who are even asking them to go and matchete other people, what you shouldn’t forget to do is ask them, where are their own children in the field?”
Okang who said his position discerns political affiliation, also averred that: “I understand that the major orchestrators of this violence are on the other side, if they come resist them, resist them; because our votes must count in 2019. Therefore let me again commend our young people for putting up this program together. It’s not easy to put up a program of this magnitude; I have seen so many young people around.”
Furthermore, he stressed that: “Nigeria in itself is bedeviled with the kind of leadership that you and I may not be pleased with. The leadership of this country may not have clearly represented the aspirations of young people and as young people this is the time to begin to muster our population to take advantage of our demographic dividends as young people and be able to ensure that we create the needed change that we need.”
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