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Child Rights: Poor implementation endangering young offenders – FG



The Federal Government on Wednesday said that poor implementation of the Child Rights Act in Nigeria was constituting a serious threat to the effective reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable children into society.

The government also emphasised the need for extensive implementation of the CRA but however, proposed guidelines for Nigerian courts to consider the age, mental capacity and vulnerability of children involved in a particular case. 

The Director (Criminal Justice Reform Department), Federal Ministry of Justice, Leticia Ayoola Daniels, represented by the Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Justice, Godwin Iheabunike, stated these during a sensitisation workshop on proposed adjudication guidelines for children and young persons in conflict with the Laws of the FCT in Abuja. 

The workshop brought together experts and stakeholders in the justice sector, including different legal institutions in the country to brainstorm on factors impeding the full implementation of the Child Rights Act despite coming to light in 2003. 

The event aimed to adopt a draft of adjudication guidelines for children and young persons in conflict with the laws in the Federal Capital Territory. 

While corroborating the slow implementation of the Child Rights Act, Daniels added that the proposed adjudication guidelines would facilitate the pace of its implementation. 

She also said that the proposed guidelines would provide uniformity in the adjudication process of judges. 

“This document is proposed to create that uniformism in that sector. It wouldn’t be too nice that two judges with the same scenario will come to different conclusions and even if they come up with different conclusions it means there must be some kind of framework to get to that conclusion. 

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“And of course, they are the same framework they are likely to get to the same conclusion eventually. The second reason that is very attractive is that the Child Rights Act has been there but the level of implementation it has been quite slow and this document will produce that speed in implementing this document. 

“There’s nothing to say this is the rule, there is nothing to say this is the procedure. The adults have their own procedure, they have their own guidelines except for this aspect of the law,” Daniels added.

On his part, the Controller of Corrections in Nigeria Correctional Services, Francis Enobore (retd), called for new legal procedures that would ensure the protection of the future of young offenders. 

According to him, the Federal Government must now begin to put in place programs that would help redirect the minds of young children from crime.

“We need to adopt practices and processes that will ensure the protection of their tomorrow, that is accommodating procedures that will impact very minimal adverse effect on them. Let us address our minds to programs that will give them opportunities to excel. There are some of them that have great potential, so how can we redirect this excess energy, time and resources,” he advised. 

The Lead Consultant, Ugonna Ezekwem, said that part of the efforts to ensure that the justice system works for young offenders in Nigeria would be the adoption of the proposed adjudication guidelines by relevant legal bodies. 

“Our mission is to develop guidelines that will support the courts in doing their work when they sentence those children. So, today, we came together to discuss the guidelines that we have developed over the past few weeks. 

“We have had several meetings revising the guidelines, and we’re now having a final draft which is the fourth draft of this guideline and the guideline is to ensure that when children are involved in a case, things are done in such a way that we recognise their age, their mental capacity, and their special vulnerability so that they are not treated the same as adults.”

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