BOFAI

MR. OGUNLEYE OLUWASEUN EMMANUEL’S LECTURE FOR BOFAI’S WEBINAR ON “CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW; JUVENILE JUSTICE, CARE AND PROTECTION IN NIGERIA” HELD ON THE 18TH DAY OF JULY, 2020 FROM 3:00 PM TO 4:15 PM

We shall examine the child justice system from the perspective of a social scientist. I will also like to share my experience and understanding on the topic.

Who is a child? Under the conflict and child justice system in Nigeria, a child is any person under the age of 18. The age of criminal responsibility varies in Nigeria under the Child Rights Law 2007. Any child under the age of 7 is said to not have committed any offence or be tagged as a child offender.

In Nigeria, only twenty-five states have adopted the Child Rights Law which protects the child and serves as therapeutic jurisprudence for them. Lagos Child Rights Law is furnished for this purpose.

What is therapeutic jurisprudence? It is the principle referring to the ways in which a defendant is treated in court. So what are the doctrines that protect a child under the law? They are the doctrines of best interest and paramount interest of a child. As child protection specialists that we are, we must consider the above doctrines.

According to section 1 of the Lagos Child Rights Law, the onus of protecting a child is clearly stated. Additionally, sections 2 and 3 of the aforementioned law states the duty of care and right of survival of a child.

The Guest Speaker - Mr. Ogunleye Oluwaseun Emmanuel

Currently in Nigeria, over 1,500 children are awaiting trial in different correctional Centres and 5% percent of them are below ten years, which is a major problem. A survey carried out in 2014 by VAC INTERVENTION revealed that six of ten children suffer any form of violence.

Now conflict, borrowing the word of Thomas Hobbes, is endemic in the state of nature and that is why we have the law to protect us. The family court system has the primary jurisdiction to attend to the case of a child offender or ward.

Why are children in conflict with the law? The environment, family, and poverty are the major factors. The family is the best place for a child to develop but where you have dysfunctional homes and family and there is no duty of care, the child is at a high risk of offending and be in possible conflict with the law.

So, how do we handle or establish a corrective order in the best interest of the child? We have new innovations of diverting the child to a rehabilitation center instead of a correctional centre. Research has proven that a child that is diverted out of the correction centres is likely to be more productive than a child in a correctional home. Diversion centres that provide rehabilitation interventions like soft and hard skills can help the child have a mental shift. At our centre in Lagos, we have had a lot of success stories.

So, a child offender does not act on his or her own, but he or she is impacted by his or her environment, family and poverty which are the highest causer factors.

I hope I have shared some pertinent concerns to spur us up as child protection advocates. I strongly advise that for all the things stated above, BOFAI should direct and fast track their pro bono legal services towards these children.

QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

QUESTION 1: For an organization like BOFAI which is interested in children in conflict with the law (also children in correctional homes), what is your advice for us and best way to make impact?

ANSWER: Advocacy is the best place to start. I will also suggest that BOFAI should collaborate with the Office of Public Defender (OPD) to render your pro bono services. OPD is the place to establish a partnership.

QUESTION 2: It is obvious that dysfunctional families, negative environment, and poverty may not be done away with for now in Nigeria, how then do we ensure that a large number of children from these backgrounds do not come into conflict with the law?

ANSWER: Channel the potential energy these young ones have to creative activities with the community.

QUESTION 3: I have really been exposed to many things regarding children. My question is that, how can we be of help to these young ones especially the 5% of them who are underage and are awaiting trial.

ANSWER: Raise advocacy on their behalf. Partner with OPD, especially in Lagos. Advocacy also involves training of key players especially in the enforcement space. The police are the first contact before the family court. A child offender is taken to the police station before the family court. The special police unit have the right to access the case of the child and dismiss the case of the child especially if is a minor offence. So, we need to train them. Some of the enforcement unit members do not know they have that right in a case of minor offences (see Section 195 of Lagos State Child Right Law (CRL)).

QUESTION 4: You said instead of sending these children to correctional centres, you divert some of them to a rehabilitation centre. Are you saying the correctional centres for children are not corrective?

ANSWER: Research has proven that correctional homes have not been effective. Like I said in my aforementioned, the best place for a child to form is the family unit. With rehabilitation centres, a collaborative work is done with both the parent and the child; something of which you cannot find in the correctional homes. Sadly, our correctional system in Nigeria is more hardened in Nigeria.

2 thoughts on “MR. OGUNLEYE OLUWASEUN EMMANUEL’S LECTURE FOR BOFAI’S WEBINAR ON “CHILDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW; JUVENILE JUSTICE, CARE AND PROTECTION IN NIGERIA” HELD ON THE 18TH DAY OF JULY, 2020 FROM 3:00 PM TO 4:15 PM”

  1. You’re absolutely right Mr. Seun. The best place for a child to form is the family unit. To be wholesome human beings, children need love, care, and understanding. A home that is devoid of these important elements will not produce the total child.
    It breaks my heart to learn that children are being charged to court. Children are supposed to just be children but once the foundation (the home) is broken, the building will definitely be shaky.
    I once heard of a boy who came back “worse” after being taken to a correctional home.
    I absolutely love and agree with the idea of rehabilitation homes that don’t just work with the children but also with the parents. Some parents need as much correction and rehabilitation just as much as the children.
    We done! And thank you for this great initiative. I have been enlightened and will make it a point of duty to enlighten others.

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