The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has condemned and sought the immediate reversal of the 10-year imprisonment with ‘menial labour’, handed down to 13-year-old Omar Farouq by the Kano State government.
Mr Farouq was sentenced by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, having been found guilty and convicted of blasphemy on August 10.
Expressing deep concerns over the sentencing, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, said it was not only wrong but “negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria and by implication, Kano State, has signed on to.”
The UN agency expressed its position in a statement posted on its website.
The body also stressed that the sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991.
The sentence, it further stated, 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.
According to UNICEF, government’s international obligations to ensure child-sensitive judicial measures for children who are alleged to have committed any offence should include ensuring quality legal representation and full implementation of child justice principles; all of which were geared towards reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of the child with their family and community.
Commending the recent strides by the Kano State Government to pass the Kano State Child Protection Bill, UNICEF pledged continued support to the 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 do not involve detention or deprivation of family care.
“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,” Mr Hawkins added.