A SPEECH DELIVERED BY DR GABRIEL OYEDIJI ON THE OCCASION OF AWARD CEREMONY MARKING THE CONCLUSION OF “GOOD HOME QUALITY SERVICE ADVOCACY SCHEME PILOT PREOJECT”

The chairman, The special guest, The representative of embassy of France Nigeria, Mr Youssef Makrouf and his colleagues.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Special Duties (Lagos State) Dr Aderemi Desalu, The Coordinator of Sponsor a Child organization, Toun Williams, Homes, schools and orphanages here present, the gentlemen of the press, dear ladies and gentlemen.

First and foremost please permit me to appreciate the sponsors, initiators and coordinator of this project for this privilege to discuss our challenges as practitioners directly in touch with the orphans and vulnerable children in Nigeria.

Without wasting our time I want to state here that lack of financial grant to private institutions taking care of orphans is the biggest issue of the time.

The last available statistics put the world population of orphans at 143million and Nigeria 17.5million (Unicef 2008). By now Nigeria, orphan & vulnerable children population would have reached 25million.

80% of the institutions taking care of orphans in Nigeria are private Homes and orphanages while state owned orphanages are very scanty all over the nation. The bulk of the burden of providing care and psycho-social support rest on the shoulder of the private Homes and orphanages.

The private Homes and orphanages provide nutritional support, educational support up to tertiary institution, medical expenses, clothing and all forms of psychosocial support , building maintenance, staff salaries, transportation etc. without the government offering any financial grant to reduce the financial stress. No home can boast of consistent support from any source. This is a wound, a tragedy and a shame of our nation. And if the Government continues to show nonchalant attitude toward the financial predicament of orphanages, it is predictable that in another 10years many orphanages will close down. Many abandoned and vulnerable children will die due to lack of placement; there will be increase in mortality in existing orphanages for lack of good nutrition and medical care. Many abandoned babies in gutters and dustbin will also die due to lack of rescue opportunity. Many brilliant children in orphanages will have half education or will be out of schools, facilities in homes will be deplorable for lack of funds to put them right and government may finally kill the interest of operators’ rendering charitable services.

Foreign grant that was once available to practitioners has stopped flowing to Nigeria due to the activities of fraudulent people fronting for non-existing orphanages.

The introduction of Child Right Act and its practice has grossly increased the running cost of Homes and orphanages. The drive by many State Government for excellence and world class standard,  is being threatened for lack of complementary financial support .  Great ideas are been imported  and forced on operators daily from Europe, U.S etc.  without a look at the financial investment of those communities in Homes and orphanages.

Centralization of adoption approval in all the states in Nigeria (i.e Approval are state based  and non-transferable) has allowed clusters of adoptable children in orphanages in some states and scarcity in other states. We are advocating that once  approval is legally taking in one state under Child Right Act, such approval should be acceptable in any of the state in Nigeria.

The introduction of family court in some states and its practice seems to prolong the time a child spend in the home before legal adoption. There is no adequate training for Juvenile Justice Administrators in Nigeria, for Ministry officials, Social Workers, orphanage operators and even for some magistrates assigned to such courts . Some of family court still operate on the principle of criminal justice The consequence of this is the continuous adjournment of cases, time and expenses the home incur at visiting courts etc.  If the social investigations by the Juvenile Police Centers, the Ministry of officials and social workers in Homes and orphanages could perform their responsibilities effectively well, adoptable children will not stay too long in homes and consequently, cost of running the homes will be reduced.

Permit me to appreciate the sponsor of this programme i.e Good Home Quality Service Project, the knowledge acquired by the staff of the Homes selected has help us to effectively implement Home Quality Management, Self-reporting, Self auditing, and value of Good Performance Reward. All these tools shall continuously be applied to maintain Good Home and render quality services to the children under our care.

I wish to recall the effort of Sponsor a Child/P&G Organization and appreciate again the coordinator.

Precisely four years ago, many Homes gathered here at this very venue to receive large stock of educational and library items, thus stimulating the reading culture and library development in orphanages—More grease to your elbow Toun.

Lastly on our part as an organization we have been able to work with many states Government in our drive to stem the tide child abuse, child trafficking and illegal orphanages. You will agree with me that the news that once littered  our media is fast fading away.

I want to specially appreciate the Lagos State Government, Oyo State and the Plateau State Government for their moral support in the fight against malpractices and child crime. While I call on other State Government to give us similar opportunities to work with them in the same regard.

Finally my special thanks goes Mr Youssef Makrouf and his team, I met them in one of the session of the training.  Sponsor a Child coordinator, Toun Williams, all the resource persons and staffers, all the participating homes and everyone here for your very kind attention.

Thank you and God bless you.