Incarceration of Children as a Matter of Last Resort.
The United Nations (UN Beijing Rules) on the Administration of juvenile justice, Rule 26 and its corresponding sections especially 26.2 states that “Juveniles in institutions shall receive care, protection and all necessary assistance – social, educational, vocational, psychological,
medical and physical that they may require because of their age, sex, and personality and in the interest of their wholesome development.” Section 26.1 states that “the objective of training and treatment of juveniles placed in institutions is to provide care, protection, education and vocational skills, with a view to assisting them to assume socially constructive and productive roles in society”
Inmates of the Juvenile Centre Gboko, Benue State
In addition, The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, in 1 states that “every child shall have the right to an education”. Thus sub-section 3,and sub-section a-c of the same article state that “States Parties to the present Charter shall take all appropriate measures with a view to achieving the full realization of this right and shall in particular: (a) provide free and compulsory basic education; (b) encourage the development of secondary education in its different forms and to progressively make it free and accessible to all; (c) make the higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity and ability by every appropriate means”
Sadly, however, Nigeria and many other African nations continue detaining children arbitrarily, provide little or no education and any form of training for juvenile offenders and offer no protection of their basic human rights, thereby exposing them to different forms of abuses, exploitations and diseases which have severe and lasting consequences on them and society. This is so because in many parts of Africa, children in conflict with the law are for the most part dealt with as adults, using deprivation of liberty as the primary sentencing option. One obvious weakness of this system is that the needs and interests of the child as well as the root causes of conflict with the law are often ignored and little or nothing is done to offer care and assistance with reintegration into society.
In addition, most children in Africa have no understanding of the justice systems and their rights which makes it unlikely for them to challenge and report abuses committed within the system. More so, many institutions dealing with children offenders are notoriously child-unfriendly and their physical environment are damaging to the child’s mental, health, social and psychological well-being.
A staff of CURE-Nigeria & the Principal of the Juvenile Institution, Kaduna during a book donation by CURE-Nigeria
In Nigeria, the three juvenile institutions lack adequate educational and rehabilitation programs, in addition to inadequate health/medical and social facilities. Also, the number of juveniles in these institutions outnumbers the designated capacities, leading to congestion, poor feeding, etc.
The goal of this project is to:
Create a national awareness on issues that the plight of children in conflict with the law in Nigeria
Influence the development and adoption of National Guidelines for the Administration and Delivery of Child Justice in Nigeria and lobby states that have not have not domesticated the Child Rights Act to do so.