By Mfon Uyeh
These are abandoned children. It is about eight o’clock in the morning and they are here still sleeping. Who cares?
The location is the popular Tunde Ogbeha Street (Maitama) in Ewet Housing Estate, Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, South South Nigeria.
The famous “Maitama” is where the tempo of night life is always at its zenith with its negative influences on children exposed to such activities. There are drinking spots, stalls and mini supermarkets with two seemingly ailing night clubs in the adjoining street.
These children roam the streets by day scavenging for survival and return to this point at night. Sometimes they are given handouts by night crawlers or they gather the remnants from their tables to subdue hunger. Two of these abandoned children told me few nights ago that they do gather empty water bottles and sell to market women in town as means of fending for themselves.
One claimed that the parents ejected him after visits to prayer houses while the other said he left home to escape hunger having been left with the grandma by his mother now based in Lagos. They all have their stories of how they became street children.
Now, to continually allow these children roam the streets and sometimes end up like this is a sad commentary. It totally negates the provisions in the constitution of Nigeria which demands that children should be protected against moral and material neglect.
Every child is entitled to the right to survival and development. They are also entitled to the right of children in need of special protection measures and right to dignity of the child.
Without much ado, the Akwa Ibom state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare must ensure that these children are immediately taken off the streets. They should be made to also benefit maximally from such rights.
I know there are orphanages under government supervision in the state where they should be taken in.
More so, government should begin to explore means of prosecuting parents or guardians who violate rights of children particularly in the aspect of abandonment.
This is a matter of urgent public importance to me and it should be given due attention.