The recent cases of rape in Nigeria has raised a lot of concerns among the Nigerian citizens. When you input the age of legal consent in Nigeria aside the article by pulse ng, another notable sites which purported the misleading information is from a site www.ageofconsent.net which stipulates 11.
This information is false. According to pulse ng, correspondences has been sent to google to remove the misleading information from its website but all to no avail. But in the continued fight against rape it is right that we arm ourselves with the truth and the law of Nigeria as regards to the legal age of consent.
The real age of consent in Nigeria is 18. Though not expressly mentioned by the section 31 of the Child’s Rights Act, the scope of the law implies that “the age of eighteen years” is a point from which we could differentiate between an adult and a child.
Section 31 (3) (a) of the Child’s Rights Act 2003 states that, “Where a person is charged with an offence (of unlawful sexual relations with a child) under this section (31 of the same act), it is immaterial that the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years.
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THE SEXUAL OFFENSES BILL
The very high-profile case of Senator Sani Ahmed Yerima who married a 13-year-old girl in 2013, birthed the Sexual Offences Bill in 2015. The bill, which was among the 46 legislations hurriedly passed by the National Assembly, stipulates life imprisonment for any individual convicted of raping or having sexual intercourse with a minor, among others.
What the bill says
The bill is known as “An Act to Make Provision About Sexual Offences, Their Definition, Prevention And the Protection Of All Persons From Harm, Unlawful Sexual Acts, And For Purposes Connected Therewith”.
Section 7 of the bill, the controversial part which dealt with defilement of children, states that:
7. (1) A person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offence called defilement.
(2) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
(3) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.
(4) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.
Chioma Nwigwe, Director of The Eight Foundation on premium times report, said the different sub-sections in Section 7 ought to have been merged into one sub-section.
“This bill actually recommends imprisonment for life as punishment for defilement of any child below the age of 18,”
“However, what is confusing is why they chose to put those penalties in different sections. The bill could have simply said: ‘A person who commits an offence of defilement on any child is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.’ The child has already been defined by the Constitution and by the Children and Young Persons Act.
”A lot of people have read just one subsection, which is that subsection that says ‘A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life’ and interpreted it to mean that 11 years is now the new age of consent, but that is not true. The same penalty is imposed on defilement of any child below the age of 18.”
Though this helps shed some light on the issue of consent in Nigeria. More needs to be done to make the law unambiguous and to ultimately protect the girl child from sexual abuses.