UNICEF estimates that one in four girls and one in 10 boys in Nigeria are victims of sexual violence. A majority of such cases—70.5 percent of girls and 69.2 percent of boys—involve multiple incidents of abuse. Sexual abuse is considered an offense under Chapter 21 of Nigeria’s criminal code, and the Childs Rights Act of 2003 (CRA) made sexual intercourse with a child punishable by life imprisonment, forbade other forms of sexual abuse or exploitation, and prohibited child marriage, though this practice persists in some rural parts of Nigeria. The 2015 Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Act expanded the definition of rape, prohibited female genital mutilation, and strengthened other legal protections and resources. Today, it is the key legislation underpinning Nigeria’s response to child sexual abuse (CSA). However, as of 2021, the CRA and VAPP Acts had been passed in just 26 and 27 of Nigeria’s 36 states, respectively.
Chief among the government entities charged with combatting CSA, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is responsible for implementing the VAPP Act—in addition to combating human trafficking—through its multidisciplinary departments and its coordination of service providers within and outside of government. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs (FMWA) is charged with advising the government on women’s advancement, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly, which includes work with sexual violence. A range of other organizations also play a role in the government’s efforts to combat CSA, including the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Police Affairs, the National Centre for Women Development, and the National Orientation Agency.
The federal government funds NAPTIP to combat violence against all persons, including children, and empowers it to investigate potential crimes, prosecute offenders, provide rehabilitation and counseling to victims, and educate the wider population about violence issues. The agency has been allocated a total of NGN 2.9 billion for 2023 and between NGN 2.8 billion and NGN 4.3 billion per year between 2018 and 2023. (See Figure 1.) However, the available budget documentation offers little clarity on how such money is spent toward the implementation of the VAPP Act, particularly as relates to CSA, or how spending is prioritized among human trafficking and other violations such as CSA. For example, since 2021, the agency has had a funding line for “Rehabilitation and empowerment of victims of human trafficking,” but it is not clear whether this activity also impacts other issues in the agency’s remit. Additionally, although annual budgets highlight individual spending projects relevant to CSA, these often appear as one-off efforts targeting domestic violence or child molestation in given years and specific regions. The result is a changing lineup of funding allocations year to year that suggests little continuity between programs at the national level. (See Figure 2.) This also makes it difficult to calculate what proportion of funding is specific to responding to violence against children, including sexual violence.
NAPTIP Annual Budgets
NAPTIP Annual Allocations Relevant to CSA, 2018–2023
The FMWA also plays a significant role in the implementation of policies related to the VAPP Act and combatting CSA. Within the ministry’s far-reaching mandate is the protection of children, people with disabilities, and the elderly from gender-based discrimination and violence. Given the detailed nature of available budgets, it is possible to see funding lines specific to CSA-relevant issues such as rape, child marriage, online child sexual exploitation, and support for the rehabilitation of women and children. (See Figure 3.) While some funding lines show consistency across years—such as support for the National Council of Women Affairs, the “empowerment, reorientation, and rehabilitation of women and children,” and the domestication of the CRA and VAPP Acts—there are some budget inconsistencies from year to year, as seen in NAPTIP. For example, the FY 2021 and FY 2022 budgets include several funding categories, such as child-protection activities and the creation of a strategy for fighting rape and gender-based violence (GBV), which do not appear in older or newer budgets. Furthermore, the 2023 budget has far fewer funding lines for specific projects—going from 68 in 2022 to 30 in 2023—leaving unclear whether old funding lines were discontinued or condensed into broader categories.
Additional funding activities that could be relevant to CSA, but are not in Figure 3, include funding for the collection of gender-related statistics and other support to women and children. The National Centre for Women Development, an entity within the FMWA, also engages in some activities that are potentially relevant to preventing and responding to CSA, which in FY 2022 and FY 2023 include developing a GBV dashboard, identifying discriminatory laws against women and children, and empowering vulnerable women and children with vocational skills.
CSA-relevant Funding Lines within Ministry of Women Affairs
Data Source: Annual Appropriations Bills 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023.
Note: Some funding areas may appear under slightly different titles year to year. Where these categories are sufficiently closely worded, these are included under a single title, usually the most recent.
The Ministry of Justice is responsible for protecting the rights of citizens and ensuring access to justice. With respect to CSA and the VAPP Act, this includes creating and implementing guidelines related to GBV; ensuring the provision of medical, psychosocial, forensic, and legal care for survivors; facilitating cooperation among health, social, legal, and law enforcement entities; and expanding awareness related to GBV. However, specific funding lines that may be relevant to this end only appear in the FY 2022 and FY 2023 budgets under the title “Citizens rights, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) response, and torture reduction.” (See Figure 4.) Another part of the Ministry of Justice that is relevant to the VAPP Act is the National Human Rights Commission, which handles human rights complaints, with an emphasis on women and children and sexual violence. However, budget documents do not specify additional line items under the National Human Rights Commission for specific projects, frustrating efforts to ascertain how much the commission spends on CSA-related activity.
CSA-Relevant Spending within the Ministry of Justice
Finally, numerous other organizations play roles in implementing the VAPP Act or combatting CSA otherwise, but budgetary information is either too vague or too intermittent to be insightful. For example, through its Gender Units, the Nigerian Police Force within the Ministry of Police Affairs enforces the VAPP and CRA Acts, responds to incidents of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and violence against children (VAC), monitors perpetrators, and provides gender-informed training to police commands, among other relevant activities. However, national budgets do not specify any funding lines relevant to CSA-related projects or specify funding for the activities of Gender Units, thus making it difficult to clarify the level of resources the Nigerian Police Force is devoting to CSA. Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, founder of MediaCon, noted a lack of resources: “When you go make a report for the case, you’re going to be responsible for the logistics of the investigating police officer, because he does not have a vehicle, and it’s not like he has an allowance for him to even hire a vehicle to visit the crime scene.” Other relevant ministries, departments, and agencies—including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Information and Culture, and the National Orientation Agency—intermittently devote resources through funding lines that may be relevant to CSA. However, these budget lines seem to lack any sort of continuity and explicit focus on CSA to make them a key part of Nigeria’s response.
While Nigeria has formulated the VAPP Act as a clear response to the issues of GBV and CSA, national-level budget documentation makes it difficult to assess the scope of budgetary commitments to these ends. Several issues contribute to this lack of clarity. Predominantly, budgets for the most relevant government ministries, departments, and agencies, including NAPTIP and the FMWA, are prone to a lack of continuity for specific funding lines, resulting in a cascade of relevant but changing budget contributions from year to year. (See Figures 2 and 3.) One year, this may take the form of funding for a strategy to respond to rape or a region-specific investment against child molestation, only for this funding to be absent the following year, often replaced by other programmatic or regional investments or condensed into larger, but vaguer, budget lines. While the level of detail for some years can be helpful and is not always provided in other countries, the changing categorization of spending makes it impossible to track overall commitments to CSA-relevant activities with any consistency. Experts on the ground helped to reiterate this point. As Juliet Ohahuru-Obiora, founder and gender programming director for the Action Against Child Sexual Abuse Initiative, told FP Analytics, “the cloak of child protection” is a major problem that “does not allow you to single out accounts for child sexual abuse.” She further explained: “There are several interconnected elements that span across different sectors such as education, social protection, public order, and safety, health, and general public services. Within each of these components, there are numerous sub-areas that fall under the umbrella of child protection. Unfortunately, the budget fails to provide a detailed breakdown of these sub-components, resulting in a lack of clear prioritization.”
“When you go make a report for the case, you’re going to be responsible for the logistics of the investigating police officer, because he does not have a vehicle, and it’s not like he has an allowance for him to even hire a vehicle to visit the crime scene.”
Dr. Princess Olufemi-Kayode, founder of MediaCon
Another complication arises from the consolidation of CSA-related activities with other spending priorities such as human trafficking or GBV at large. This is best captured funding lines that make it impossible to differentiate between CSA and these other priorities, as seen in budget line titles like “Sensitization of youth and women against child abuse and human trafficking” and “Design, strengthening and coordination of programmes on women, children and vulnerable groups.” On the one hand, it is helpful to see issues like child molestation called out explicitly in various budget lines, because it signals attention to CSA that is typically not specified in other countries. On the other hand, grouping of these priorities alongside others in the same funding line makes it exceedingly difficult to gauge the extent to which resources are being contributed for either purpose. Clearer depiction of how budgetary resources are being allocated among CSA-related or priorities is a key part of understanding the scope of Nigeria’s current efforts and where work remains to be done.