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”

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 abuse, exploitation 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 system and their rights which makes it unlikely for them to challenge and report abuses committed within the system. More so, many institutions dealing with child offenders are notoriously child-unfriendly and their physical environment is 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 of 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 domesticated the Child Rights Act to do so.


CURE-Nigeria has in recent times partnered with the media to bring issues affecting juveniles who come in conflict with the law to the front burner. Our legal aid project and visits to detention centres enabled us to gain proper insight into how children are faring in the criminal justice system in Nigeria.

Gains are being made from this advocacy as some relevant actors in the criminal justice system are responding to our calls for children to be treated as children by the justice system. For example, the Chief Judge of the FCT paid a visit to the Medium Security Prison Keffi in 2017 after our media statement that the facility was holding juveniles contrary to the provisions of the law.

Below are links to some of the publications:

  1. A prison reform organization, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) has criticized the Nigerian security agencies over the detention of children in adult prisons. …Read More
  2. How kids are locked up with adults in Nigerian prisonsChristian Atsi, 17, Nasir Mukaila, 16, and Miracle Jonah, 19, are among about 20 underage inmates at the Keffi Prison in Nasarawa State. This was known when a justice organisation visited the prison recently. Read more
  3. Stop sending children to adult prisons- NGO warns Lagos govt Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, CURE-Nigeria, has warned the Lagos State Government to stop sending children to adult prison facilities. Read more
  4. Group decries growing numbers of women, and babies in prisons -A group, the Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) an Abuja-based Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has decried the growing numbers of women and babies in prisons. …Read more

The juvenile remand centre Gboko in Benue State also benefitted from the donation of educational materials to prisons in Benue State by the US Embassy in Abuja in collaboration with CURE-Nigeria, in May 2017.

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