Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Law (SJD)



First Advisor

Professor Remigius Chibueze

Second Advisor

Helen Chang

Third Advisor

Aileen Huang


Child abuse and neglect is an international enemy of child development. Around the world, child abuse and neglect are said to account for child mortality. The warning signs of child abuse and neglect are not always obvious. Child abuse, which is multi-faceted, includes exploitation, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse. Specifically, child maltreatment constitutes neglect and all shades of abuse and exploitation, which result in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, continued existence, development, or dignity in the context of a relationship among others. Every existing society is made up of children who are seen as the present and future core members of these societies. Safety and development, through wellness, the upbringing of children, is therefore an essential aspect that is too indispensable to neglect. Simply put, child abuse refers to the mistreatment of children. It involves and is not restricted to extreme mistreatment of a child by a person in whose hands a child’s welfare lies. Child abuse in its occurrence comes in various forms. These forms include, amongst others, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse, and physical abuse. This dissertation will classify child abuse into four major groups known as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.

The purpose of this dissertation is to undertake a critical exploration of the major types of child abuse in Nigerian families. It will evaluate to what extent and how the existing family and child laws are effective in combating this growing problem. This study was conceived because of the increase in child abuse and neglect in Nigerian families. Unfortunately, these children are vulnerable. They suffer the indignity of rape, sexual harassment and other humiliation arising from patriarchal mind-sets, beliefs in certain socio-religious mythologies and ancient customary practices. In Nigeria, a child is regarded as a miniature adult that is expected to carry some duties at home, in the farm and in the market beginning from about three years of age. The parents give vi out some children at age six. Others may be exposed to street hawking to raise funds for the family. Child abuse and neglect often occur in families and results in serious consequences for the safety of all family members as well as for members of the larger community. Factors associated with the occurrence of child abuse and neglect are also associated with domestic violence, and many of these are the same factors that put children at risk for youth violence and later adult violence crime.

This dissertation is therefore an analytical evaluation of the legal framework for the protection of the rights of a child in Nigeria especially with respect to domestic violence, hitting of a child, use of abuse words on a child, child emotional abuse, child neglect and physical abuse in Nigeria. Addressing and eliminating the widespread prevalence and incidence of violence against children is an obligation of States parties under the Convention. Securing and promoting children’s fundamental rights to respect for their human dignity and physical and psychological integrity, through the prevention of all forms of violence, is essential for promoting the full set of child rights in the Convention. For instance, General Comment No. 3 was issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to promote the realization of the human rights of children in the context of HIV/AIDS as guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (“CRC”). Although this relates to HIV/AIDS, the promotion of the realization of the human rights of children is of utmost importance. General Comment No. 3 identifies and elaborates on several rights of children and corresponding obligations of state parties, for example, General Comment No. 3 explains that under Articles 24, 13, and 17 of the CRC. Children should have the right to access adequate information prevention and care through both formal and informal channels. It also states that accessibility of voluntary, confidential vii counseling services, with due attention to the evolving capacities of the child, is fundamental to the rights and health of children.

This dissertation will highlight certain cases of child abuse and neglect in Nigeria and will explore international law as well as transformational advances in the legal framework (constitutional, judicial, legislative and policy) governing the protection of a child from domestic violence. Valuable lessons may reasonably be applied to bridge the inherent fundamental gaps in the existing Nigerian framework. This dissertation will be confined to the legal remedies available to a child exposed to abuse, recommendations for a sustainable legal framework for the protection of abused children, and exploration of sustainable ways to fill the lacuna in the current legislation.

It is hereby acknowledged and welcomed the numerous initiatives developed by Nigerian Government and others to prevent and respond to abuse and neglect against the Nigerian child. In spite of these efforts, existing initiatives are in general insufficient. Legal frameworks in a majority of States still fail to prohibit all forms of abuse and neglect against children, and where laws are in place, their enforcement is often inadequate. Widespread social and cultural attitudes and practices condone abuse and neglect against of the Nigerian child. The impact of measures taken is limited by lack of knowledge, data and understanding of violence against the Nigerian child and its root causes, by reactive efforts focusing on symptoms and consequences rather than causes, and by strategies which are fragmented rather than integrated. Resources allocated to address the problem are inadequate.