Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state has lamented the economic challenges that have rendered many families helpless and susceptible to separation, saying, incidences of divorce and judicial separation has rendered not less than 10 million Nigerian children homeless and exposed to various social vices.
Speaking at the inaugural national conference of Family Court Judges and Magistrates in Nigeria held at Golden Tulip Hotel, FESTAC Town, Amuwo Odofin, Lagos, the governor who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Idiat Adebule challenged participants at the conference to look at the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act and align it with that of the Child Rights Law while adjudicating on cases bordering on divorce and judicial separation.
He said that this had become necessary because cases of divorce and judicial separation are impacting negatively on the children and may expose them to abuse and neglect which may hinder their effective development in the society.
Ambode decried the rise in domestic and sexual violence against children of recent also charged the conference to examine the trend with provisions of the law and proffer solution that would ameliorate the situation.
"Our administration strongly believes in the Child Rights Law and its provisions because as parents and custodians, we have inalienable responsibility to ensure that no child is unduly deprived of the basic necessities of life, including the right to a family name, love, education, shelter and healthcare," he said.
The Chief Judge of Lagos state, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade also decried the increasing spate of child molestation, juvenile delinquency, pedophilia, rape and domestic violence in the Nigerian society in spite of sustained advocacy and relevant legislations that are aimed at curtailing the occurrence of the vice and related crimes.
Atilade said that the concern of the judiciary for the sanctity of the family institution was informed by the need to further preserve and ensure the protection of its members, especially women and children through appropriate legal framework and incisive judicial process at high courts and magisterial levels.
The chief judge said this development informed the choice of the theme of the conference, “A critical Appraisal of the Impact and Role of the Family and Juvenile Courts in the Administration of Justice, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence in Nigeria", which she contended is critical and germane to addressing issues confronting the family and the larger society.
She stressed the need for participant at the conference to jointly undertake a review of the extant rules, legislations and judicial process, with a view to proffering practical solutions and chart a new course for family matters in line with global best practice.
The state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem in a remark charged the conference to also focus on asset distribution between estranged husband and wife in divorce and judicial separation cases in a way that would be beneficial to the children to preserve family values.
Kazeem who also condemned domestic and sexual violence and child abuse urged the Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) not to relent in the task of ridding the society of the vice emphasizing, “we must send a message to those who abuse our women and children that Lagos State government has a zero tolerance for such perpetrators.
Head of the Family Court, Justice Yetunde Idowu, in a keynote address at the occasion, lamented that in midst of the achievement recorded in the state on child rights and protection of family values, there are still cases of children hawking and begging on the streets of major cities when they should be in schools.
Justice Idowu said the state government had set up special courts, policies and programmes to cater for and protect children in need of care and protection.
"It is now a crime in our state to abuse and violently punish children. Laws have been created to address domestic violence, child labour, mental and sexual abuse, child abduction and trafficking, betrothals and marriage of children and calling and labeling a child a witch or wizard," she added.