The general frameworks within which human rights are protected in Nigeria are enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Chapter IV contains an elaborate Bill of Rights. The right guaranteed include: the rights to life, the rights to personal liberty, the rights to fair hearing and the right to freedom of movement among others. Section 42 prohibits unjustifiable discrimination on basis of “ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion.” As for penal infractions, Nigeria has two separate codes, one applying to Southern Nigeria (Criminal Code) and one applicable to Northern Nigeria (Penal Code). These provide for offences against persons, including homicides, assaults and different kinds of sexual and gender specific violations such as rape.

In 1996, Nigeria submitted its first report on the implementation of the Child Rights Convention to the United Nation Committee on the Rights of the Child. One of the major recommendations made by the committee was to finally ensure the domestication of the Child Rights Convention, as this is necessary for its full implementation under Nigeria law. A first bill on children’s rights had already been elaborately in 1993, but could not be passed into law by the military government, because of apposition from religious groups and traditionalists. A special committee was subsequently set up to “harmonize the children’s bill with Nigerian religious and customary beliefs. The Bill, providing for the rights and the responsibilities of children in Nigeria, as well as for a renewed system of juvenile justice administration, was rejected by the parliament in October 2002- again on grounds of its contents being contrary to Islamic values, traditions and culture. The main objections targeted a provision setting 18 years as the minimum age for marriage. This was said to be compatible with religious and cultural traditions in various parts of the country, where girls are given in marriage at a younger age. Many national and international Non-Governmental Organizations, as well as other sectors of the civil society in Nigeria, criticized this decision and forced the legislators to reconsider its decision to oppose to the Child’s Right Bill.

Finally, the Child’s Right Act was adopted in September 2003. This was a right step in the right direction. Nonetheless, very few states have passed the Child Rights Act into law. This article is therefore poised to examine the various legal impediments in the practical implementation of the Act since it has been legislated. This will include an indepth analysis of its content and other circumstances that could either facilitate or hinder its implementation both nationally and internationally.