The President of the Association of Orphanages and Homes Operators in Nigeria, Dr. Gabriel Oyediji, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari, state governors and law enforcement agencies to protect the Nigerian children from kidnappers.
Oyediji, addressing journalists in Egbeda, Lagos State, said it was sad to realise that Nigerian children had never been so vulnerable and insecure in the history of Nigeria as they are today.
He stated that the ever-growing insecurity in the land has exposed the Nigerian child to gory pictures of death and violence across the country such that the Nigerian-child had become a major victim of the disturbing situation.
He further stated: “Not only is he orphaned when his parents are kidnapped for ransom, attacked and killed by career criminals, he has now become the primary target of these blood-baying criminals.
“When in April 2014, 276 students of Government Science Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State were kidnapped by Boko Haram, the world was horrified, and warned that it must never happen again.
“Then, it happened again in Government Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
“Then, it happened again in Kankara, Katsina State, where about 800 students were abducted.
“And just last week, it was the turn of Kagara in Niger State.
“In all these cases, the criminals targeted students, endangering children whose only offence is to be in school to learn.
“And there is no assurance Kagara would be the last.”
Oyediji stated that kidnappers had now included orphanages and homes in their checklist of terror.
These kidnappers, he noted, now raid orphanages and abduct children for ransom.
He said: “This is a new cancer, a horrible phenomenon threatening the future of Nigerian orphans.
“If orphanages are now being targeted and, therefore, made unsafe, then where else is safe?
“This is a new cancer traumatizing children.
“It needs an urgent cure before it begins to spread like wildfire.
“We call on the relevant authorities to help protect our orphanages and homes.”
According to Oyediji, aside from insecurity, which, at the moment, was the number one problem plaguing orphanages and homes in Nigeria, the poor attention being paid to social services in the country was another mountain which must be subdued.
He added: “According to a 2008 UNICEF report, there were an estimated 17.5 million orphans in Nigeria.
“And 95 per cent of orphans in the country live in privately-run homes.
“Yet, none of the orphanages has any regular source of funding.
“They don’t have any solid means of funding to engage professional security staff or acquire CCTV to protect the children.
“Where CCTV is available, there is no electricity to power it.”