Omonade charges Govt to arrest poverty not parents, faults motion proscribes punishment for parents over street hawking 

 

By Ovasa Ogaga,

The Chairman House Committee on Public Petitions of the Delta State House of Assembly, Hon. (Barr.) Matthew Onojighofia Omonade, has tasked governments at all level to formulate programs the would eradicate endemic and excruciating poverty ravaging most family in the country.

The Delta State Lawmaker stated while opposing a bill seeking to arrest and prosecute parents in Delta State for failing to send their children to school.

Omonade noted that rather than arrest and prosecute parents for their inabilities to register their children and wards in school, the state government must put parametres in place to check the growing out of school children in the state.

The lawmaker, who is the member representing Ughelli North Constituency 1 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), kicked against the development on the floor of the House during Wednesday’s plenary.

He blamed the growing level of poverty in the country as the reason why many parents are engaging their children on street hawking rather than ensuring that they were in classrooms during school hours across the state.

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Omonade stressed that government at levels must tackle the reasons why parents are finding it difficult to send their children to school, especially creating the enabling environment for businesses as well as building infrastructures.

The APC lawmaker further posited that there was a need for government of Delta to create child support for parents as it is done in develop crime to arrest the ugly trend of street hawking during school hours in the state.

According to a statement issued on Thursday, Omonade questioned the rationale behind arresting parents and guardians when government had equally failed in their responsibility to provide jobs and enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

He called on Governor Sheriff Oborevwori to as a matter of urgency direct the Ministries of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Basic and Secondary Education and other relevant government agencies to urgently put in place necessary measures to arrest the growing out of school children.

THE STATEMENT FULLY READ:

Today, 18th October, 2023, I vehemently argued, to oppose a motion that contains a prayer calling for the arrest and prosecution of parents or guardians of children who engage in street hawking. Reflecting on the prevailing and disturbing economic realities in Delta State and Nigeria, I contended that it would be anti-people to arrest parents whose children are found hawking during school hours. The motion I opposed underscored the following positions:

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“That this Honourable House do now call on the Governor of Delta State, His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori to direct the Ministries of Women Affairs, Community and Social Development, Basic and Secondary Education and other relevant Government Agencies to urgently put in place necessary measures to:

(i) Check Street Hawking by Children; Loitering in Public by School Children during school hours or at any other time, Alms Begging by Children or the use of Children for Alms Begging and the rising incidence of Children Cleaning Windshields of Motor-vehicles on the Streets, thereby putting themselves in danger;

(ii) Monitor and carry out surveillance on streets and areas to ensure children remain in school and not found loitering, hawking or begging for alms.

(iii) Sensitize Parents and Guardians, especially Market Women and Men on the dangers of Street hawking, use of children for alms begging; loitering by school children during school hours or at any other time and the benefits of having their children or wards in school; and

(iv) Facilitate the arrest and prosecution in the family court or any other body set up, parents, guardians or adults who aid and abet the action of the child in line with applicable laws of the state.”

I contended that, while I agree that children should be discouraged from hawking, I do not share the view that POOR parents who are struggling to conquer HUNGER should be ARRESTED and sent to PRISON for sending their children to hawk. We should make commitment to arrest POVERTY, that ravages our communities; we are expected to ask questions on why the government has failed to fulfill its obligations under chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Which is what is known as ” Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy”.

In my view, laws are to redeem the people, not to further plunge them into misery. Chapter 2 (supra) clearly talked about the duty of government to provide public services, redistribute wealth and income for Nigerians, promote economic growth, infrastructure and ensure the altruistic distribution of the dividends of democracy. Unfortunately, the same Constitution made chapter 2 non-justiciable. This means, citizens cannot enforce against the government their rights under chapter 2 of the constitution.

If the government has been doing all of the above as contained under Chapter 2, the level of POVERTY in Delta State and Nigeria as a whole would be reduced and there would be no need for parents to send their children for hawking.

I know as a fact, that in other civilized climes, food is a right for every child born in such countries. There is what is known as child benefits payable to the child’s parents to help cover the costs of raising the child. These benefits are payable from birth until the child turns 18 years. This is not the situation in Delta State or any other states in Nigeria. Here, POOR parents contend with inexplicable VICISSITUDES of life. No road, water, light, employment and no money to feed or attend to the medical needs of their children.

Recent international reports show that the poverty index in Nigeria has grown in geometric proportions. People must survive. So, instead of arresting PARENTS of children hawking during school hours, we should first find out why parents send their children to hawk on the streets, instead of sending them to school, because, no reasonable human being with stable means of living would choose hawking as a vocation in the first place, let alone send their children to hawk. If we do our findings, we would come to terms with the realities of how POVERTY is compelling PARENTS to send their children into street hawking.

It was my further contention that the state government should invest RESOURCES to create jobs, build INFRASTRUCTURES and create a business-friendly environment. The truth is, if parents are well employed or if the government pays child BENEFITS like other civilized climes do and there are infrastructures which support their businesses, nothing on earth would make any parents send their kids to hawk instead of going to school.

I beg to differ.

Hon. (Barr.) Matthew Onojighofia Omonade, member representing Ughelli North Constituency 1, Chairman House Committee on Public Petitions

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