By Ifeoma Aka
Enugu – The Enugu State Government has designated 12 courts, three in each senatorial zone, for hearing of juvenile cases in the state.
Mrs Peace Nnaji, the state Commissioner for Gender Affairs and social welfare, made the disclosure in Enugu on Monday when the Enugu State Assembly Committee on Gender visited the ministry as part of its oversight function.
Nnaji said that after the committee’s last visit, the ministry swung into action to ensure that their suggestions were considered by the state Executive Council.
The commissioner said that the state Chief Judge, Justice Ngozi Emehelu had promised to deploy some High Court Judges and magistrates to be handling cases of juvenile in the state.
She said that cases concerning children should not be treated in an open court as stated in the Child Right Act so that they would be free to express their view without fear of anybody or the press.
The commissioner said that the state government would equally train social workers that would help judges and magistrates to prepare such children before they appeared in the juvenile court for prosecution.
According to her, the good news is that if any one of them has any problem with their parents or guardian and cannot go back to the home, the child could be taken to a home specially made for such people.
Nnaji said that the governor visited the rehabilitation centre and promised to give it a face lift adding that he had equally given approval of N44 million to rehabilitate the centre.
The commissioner said that the three ministries handling the job were Ministries of works, Inter Ministerial and of Gender.
She disclosed that the governor also gave approval to the Ministry of Health to construct a home for the children loitering on the street as part of implementation of the Child Rights Act.
“So that when the children were caught they would take them to the building, invite their family for some questioning.
“The project was done by the state ministry of health and will be commissioned by the governor’s wife on May 23.
“The national level has passed the Social Protection policy Frame Work bill and Enugu State is going to pass its own through the effort of the state assembly as the governor has given approval to forward the information to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“UNICEF will invite the members of the state assembly to brainstorm with a view to study the bill and pass it. The bill will be domiciled in the Ministry of Gender,” she said.
In her remark, Mrs Nkechi Omeje-Ogbu, the Chairman Enugu Assembly House Committee on Gender Affairs and Social Matters, said the committee was on the visit to know the general overview of the activities and achievements of the ministry.
Omeja-Ogbu commended the governor for approving juvenile courts in the three senatorial zones of the state adding that this was the first of its kind.
The committee chairman commended the ministry for its efforts in protecting the rights of children especially less privileged ones in the state.
She praised the governor for being gender sensitive in all his activities in the state and also encouraged him to remember women in scheme of things.