Family facing ‘unprecedented threat’ in Nigeria, says public health expert

A public health expert has said that the family, as a unit of the society, is facing an “unprecedented threat” in Nigeria.

Jessica Charles, a public health practitioner, in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, said the extended family system, for instance, was “gradually going into extinction in some parts of Nigeria”.

Ms Charles is the Executive Director, Save the Family Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on public health, gender-based violence, and family issues.

“In the good old days, uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and other relatives were some sort of available and willing help for individuals who were struggling to survive, people who desperately needed shelter, medical assistance, school fees or financial assistance to start a small business.

“They were the shoulder for young people to lean on in troubling times. They served as mentor and positive influencers,” Ms Charles said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday.

“There are many Nigerians today with great and inspiring stories of how they were able to scale through life hurdles to become successful in different fields of endeavour because of the help they received from extended family members.”

She said the situation has so deteriorated and that it was even more worrisome that people and institutions appeared not bothered about it.

“The extended family has either been extinct in some communities in Nigeria or it is at the verge of collapsing.

“Young people no longer see nor connect, let alone bond with their uncles, aunts, cousins or nephews. Even the nuclear family that consist of father, mother, and children is also facing some serious socio-economic threats in our country.”

Ms Charles blamed the situation on the high cost of living, high rate of poverty, low moral values, and “fake prophecies that label Nigerian children, parents, and grandparents as witches”.

“Fake prophets, I must emphasise, have put asunder and breed fear and hatred in many Nigerian families,” she said.

“Sexual violence against minor is on the increase and needs to be tackled urgently,” she added.

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Thirty per cent of girls and women, aged between 15 and 49, is said to have experienced sexual abuse in Nigeria, according to a report by the United Nations.

The report published in May 2020 said there has been a sharp increase in gender-based violence in the country.

Ms Charles said, “NAPTIP (the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons) is doing an amazing work to check gender-based violence and human trafficking around the country, but there is an urgent demand for other groups to step up the intervention.

“The Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path-Initiative, is doing some great work too in Akwa Ibom State.”

She said she was convinced there was a link between the “collapse of family values” and the current security challenges in Nigeria. “After all, charity, they say, begins at home,” she added.

Ms Charles called on sociologists to do extensive research on the state of the family in Nigeria “to determine how we got here in the first place and the way forward”.

She also called on the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), and respected pastors around Nigeria to add their voices against fake prophecies and obnoxious doctrines that have destroyed families.

“The family is in peril. The time to act is now,” she said.

Why CAN can’t take action against fake pastors – former CAN leader

Places where people and families are given fake prophecies are “magic centres”, not churches, Cletus Bassey, an archbishop and past chairman of CAN in Akwa Ibom told PREMIUM TIMES in 2019, when asked what the association was doing to deter pastors from accusing children of being witches.

Mr Bassey said “all kinds of nonsense things” happening in the “magic centres” cannot happen in the church.

“How can you be in a church where they would bring Coke and Fanta and they will say they are doing anointment, then anoint people with Coke and Fanta?

“How do you have a man who says he is a man of God and he would be putting his legs on a woman and would say he is doing deliverance?”

People who run such “centres” are mostly uneducated, lack theological training, and are not members of CAN, Mr Bassey said.

“There’s nothing CAN can do about it, you cannot go to a family in which you are not a member and say ‘sit down here’ or ‘don’t do that again’.

“You don’t have the instruments of taking charge of those things, you are not empowered by the constitution,” he said.

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