The federal government said on Wednesday that poor implementation of the Child Rights Act in Nigeria posed a serious threat to the effective reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of vulnerable children into society.
The government also stressed the need for extensive implementation of the CRA but nevertheless proposed guidelines for Nigerian courts to consider the age, mental capacity and vulnerability of children involved in a particular case.
Director (Criminal Justice Reform Department), Federal Ministry of Justice, Leticia Ayoola Daniels, represented by Deputy Director, Federal Ministry of Justice, Godwin Iheabunike, expressed this during an awareness-raising workshop on the proposed adjudication guidelines for children and youth in conflict with the FCT Laws in Abuja.
The workshop brought together experts and stakeholders in the justice sector, including different legal institutions in the country, to exchange ideas on the factors that prevent the full implementation of the Child Rights Law despite the fact that it came to light in 2003 .
The event was aimed at approving draft adjudication guidelines for children and youth in conflict with laws in the Federal Capital Territory.
Noting the slow implementation of the Child Rights Act, Daniels added that the proposed award guidelines would ease the pace of its implementation.
He also said the proposed guidelines would provide uniformity in the adjudication process for judges.
“This document is proposed to create that uniformity in that sector. It wouldn’t be very good for two judges with the same scenario to come to different conclusions and even if they come to different conclusions it means that there needs to be some kind of framework for coming to that conclusion.
“And of course they are the same framework in which they are likely to come to the same conclusion eventually. The second reason that is very attractive is that the Child Rights Law has been there but the level of implementation has been quite slow and this document will produce that speed in the implementation of this document.
“There is nothing to say that this is the rule, there is nothing to say that this is the procedure. Adults have their own procedure, they have their own guidelines, except for this aspect of the law,” Daniels added.
For his part, the Controller of Corrections in Nigeria Correctional Services, Francis Enobore (retd), called for new legal procedures to ensure the protection of the future of young offenders.
According to him, the federal government must now begin to implement programs that would help redirect the minds of young children from crime.
“We need to adopt practices and processes that ensure the protection of their tomorrow, that is, accommodate procedures that will have a minimal adverse effect on them. Let’s turn our minds to programs that 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, she advised.
Lead consultant Ugonna Ezekwem said part of the efforts to ensure the justice system works for juvenile offenders in Nigeria would be the adoption of the proposed adjudication guidelines by the relevant legal bodies.
“Our mission is to develop guidelines that help courts do their job when they sentence these children. So today we’re meeting to discuss the guidelines that we’ve developed over the past few weeks.
“We had several meetings to go over the guidelines, and now we have 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 a way that we recognize their their age, their mental capacity and their special vulnerability so that they are not treated the same as adults”.