THE NIGERIAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY
Volume 6, No. 1, 2008
Juvenile Justice in Nigeria
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri
One feature of the crime situation in Nigeria is the involvement of juveniles in some criminal and/or dubious activities, which is referred to as juvenile delinquency. In Nigeria the laws define delinquency in terms of the age of those involved rather than in terms of their offences. In Children and Young Person Law, a distinction is made between a person who is yet 14 years and one who is 14 years but not yet above 16 years. The former is a ‘child’ and the latter a ‘young person’ Therefore any offence committed by a person above 16 is a crime not delinquency. Universally, delinquents are immature and therefore incapable of ‘mens rea’ (criminal intent) and ‘actus reus’ (criminal act). To this effect, regulations (laws) pertaining to treatment of delinquents apart from the adult criminals were enacted and documented, thus setting up separate justice system called juvenile justice, which is the focus of this paper. The enactments of these laws were meant to protect the child from the highly technical, cumbersome and harsh adversatorial nature of procedure characteristics of ordinary courts. They were also meant to protect the welfare of the children in the dispensation of justice. Despite the universal proclamation that juvenile delinquents should be rehabilitated and not to be punished, studies have indicated that some juvenile institutions are essentially custodial rather than treatment oriented .This paper therefore critically assessed the pre-trial, trial and post-trial handling of juvenile delinquents in Nigeria vis-à-vis the requirements of juvenile justice at each of the three stages. The paper concludes with series of educated recommendations for the improvement of juvenile justice in Nigeria.
Keywords: juvenile justice, juvenile delinquency, juvenile court, remand home,
approved school, Borstal centre