We the People and Street Children in Calabar Protest Government Neglect
We the People is deeply concerned about the plight of Street Children in Calabar. For almost 2
decades, Calabar, the capital of Cross River state in southern Nigeria has seen a continued rise
in the number of children that live on the streets and provide for themselves without the
supervision of adults. While Cross River state passed the Child Rights Law in 2009 in response to
the need to protect children from abuses, its actual implementation has been almost zero.
As an instrument to protect children from abuses in the state, the state’s child rights law has
failed woefully. In the last 2 decades, over 2000 children have lived and grown on the streets at
different times. Currently, there are at least 500 children who live on the streets of Calabar. The
majority construct makeshift accommodations for themselves in the Calabar central dumpsite,
while others live on pavements, sidewalks and street corners. They live in the most horrible
conditions imaginable, eating from dumpsters, exposed to diseased, sexual predators and crime.
For the last 3 years, We the People has been campaigning and demanding that the government
of Cross River state take action to implement its law on the protection of Children in the state.
The government has consistently refused to take action, rather denying the existence of street
children in Calabar.
On the 9 th of October 2020, We the People and partners led a march with over 200 street
children between the ages of 8 and 15, drawn from all parts of the city. The march which aimed
at engaging the Cross River state governor and demanding immediate action to end the
predicament of children living on the streets in Calabar, camped in from of the Governor’s Office.
Speaking at the march, Project Officer of We the People Mr. Joel Ekpeyong stated that every
other strategy to catch the attention of the state government and make it take responsibility
for protecting the children had failed. “We have written reports, we have held town hall
meetings, we have produced documentaries, we have done advocacy visits, we have written
letters, the government has simply refused to answer. It is for this reason we have decided to
bring the children to the governor, perhaps the sight of them and their condition will push him
to action” he said.
Representatives of the government who talked to the protesters promised to communicate the
demands of the children to the governor. The march also had in attendance civil society actors
and the media.