DETERMINING THE AGE OF CRIMINAL AND CONTRACTUAL LIABILITY IN NIGERIA: A POTENTIAL CLASH OF REALITY
Background of the Study
Children below a certain age are too young to be held responsible for breaking the law. There is a wide consensus about this principle, which is spelled out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and in other international standards, such as the Beijing Rules for juvenile justice. The Convention calls for nations to establish a minimum age ‘below which children shall be presumed not to have the capacity to infringe the penal law’, but does not set a specific age.
In fact, in spite of the basic consensus, there is continuing debate about the appropriate age. This debate too often tends to arise when exceptional cases involving children who have committed heinous offenses are given prominent coverage by the media. Sometimes this has far-reaching consequences.
In England, children have become fully accountable for offending at 10 since the murder of two-year-old James Bulger by two young boys, both 10, in 1993. In New South Wales, the 1999 manslaughter trial of an 11-year old boy for throwing his 6-year-old companion into a river attracted widespread comment and the NSW Attorney-General started a review of the age of criminal responsibility of children. In Japan, the minimum age was lowered from 16 to 14 in 2001 following public outrage over the brutal beheading of a little boy by a 14-year-old in 1997.
The murder of another youth by a twelve-year-old in 2003 in Nagasaki prompted the discussion again. In the U.S., the state of Arkansas lowered the age at which young people could be tried as adults for murder to age 11, after an 11-year-old and 13-year-old killed a youth with rifles at the entrance to their school. In the Czech Republik the minimum age is 15, but the Minister of Justice is considering lowering the age for particularly serious crimes, since in August 2006, six boys under the age of 15 robbed and killed an elderly woman and in February 2007 a 14-year-old boy confessed to the rape and murder of a classmate… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
Statement of the Problem
Persons cannot make a valid contract, namely minor, person in a state of unsound mind and person who are disqualified from contracting by any law to which they are subject. This article is concern only with minor in contract. Minors are appearing in public life today more frequently than even before.
A minor has to travel, to get his dresses tailored, or cleaned, to visit cinema halls and deposit his bicycle at a stand. He has to deal with educational institutions and purchase so many things for the facility of life and education… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
The main aim of this study is to determine the age of criminal and contractual liability in Nigeria as a potential clash for reality. The specific objectives are as follows;
- To carry out an overview of the international state of affairs concerning legal regulation of the criminal responsibility of children… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
A child is a term that refers to a person that is underage and therefore lacks capacity whether at civil or criminal matters. The Child Right’s Act 2003, passed into law in the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja), defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years. A child is a person under the age of majority.
It has been observed that the term child can easily be used interchangeably with the term infant. In Nigeria, and in contractual transactions, the age of majority is 21 years. Common-Law and Infant Relief Act 1874 governs the contracting capacity of an infant. The combined effects of these laws are as follows; An infant is allowed to enter into contracts for the supply of necessaries for himself or a member of his family.
These necessaries are items which the infant cannot exist without an infant is allowed to enter into a contract of apprentice services, education and instruction an infant has not contractual capacity where it involves contracts of repayment of money lent or contracts for goods supplied other than necessary goods… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
Natural Law Theory:
This entry considers natural law theories only as theories of law. That is not to say that legal theory can be adequately identified and pursued independently of moral and political theory. Nor is it to deny that there are worthwhile natural law theories much more concerned with foundational issues in ethics and political theory than with law or legal theory.
A sample of such wider and more foundational theories is the entry Aquinas’ moral, political, and legal philosophy. In the present entry, “natural law theory” is to be taken as shorthand for natural law theories just insofar as they bear on law and are theories of or about it.
This focus has the important incidental effect that many historically important differences between natural law theorists can be omitted, differences which pertain more to the foundations of normatively than to the nature and functions (or “the concept”) of positive law… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
RESPONSIBILITY OF A CHILD
Who is a Child?
A person who has not attained the age of majority is a minor. The term minor/minors is no where defined in the Nigerian Contract Act of 1872. But if anyone read the wording of Section 11 which spells a minor is a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. The age of majority is defined in Section 3 of Nigerian Majority Act, 1857.
A person who is of 17 years old and 364 days old, he will be called as a minor in the eyes of law. Minors’ interest is protected by the law. Minor should not enter into the contract so as to provide a protection to the minor so that nobody can take advantage of his minority. Because law presumes that minor mind is not mature enough to understand the nature of agreements.
It means what is fair, what is unfair, what is true, what is false, what is genuine and what is dupe. So in a way by debarring or by disqualifying a person who is a minor to enter into the contract, it is all in the interest of the minor… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
Criminal and Contractual Liability of a Child in Nigeria
In England restitution, that is, the restoring back the property by a fraudulent minor is permitted, if the property can be traced. In Nigeria, the question is how far a minor can be asked to restore back the benefit wrongly obtained by him or her under a void agreement?
Another question is whether a minor be asked to pay compensation to the other party. In Jamna Bai’s case, this decision gives effect to the principle laid down in Section 42 onwards of the Nigerian Contract Act, 1872. These sections vary the rules of English Common Law as to the devolution of the benefit of and liability in respect of joint contracts and appear to make all joint contracts joint and several.
Section 43 allows a promisee to sue such one or more or several joint promisors as he chooses and naturally, therefore, the minority of one of the joint promisors would not affect the liability of the others… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
It is general assumption that mental faculties of a minors are in nascent state. Minor is not mature enough to understand what is good and what its implications on his/her interest are. In the light of it, law protects a minor, so that any person by making an agreement with him/her cannot take advantage of his/her minority. Minority in Nigeria is a fact but not a privilege as in England. Law always protects a minor.
A person who has not completed his or her 18 years of age is known as a minor. There are no specific age limits to define a minor age. Different legislations in Nigeria explain minor with different age groups because of the cultural, economic, the political structure of Nigeria… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
A person who is competent to contract can enter into a contract. Minor can also make a contract on different footings which are beneficial and interest to his or her estate. There is no clear age to say a minor is a person of such age. Different legislations in Nigeria explain age of minor different age limits. Hence there should be uniformity in the age to say so and so the person is a minor.
The age of majority in the Nigerian Majority Act is being amended to make the age of majority as 18 years for every person, irrespective of the fact that in respect of them any guardian has been appointed. The bill has been passed by both the House of Parliament but still, it did not receive the assent of the President. The age of majority should be made uniform in Nigeria in entire domestic legislations… (Click the Link Below For the Complete Project Material)
Akpotohwo C. (2004). ‘Materials on Nigerian Business Law’, Covenant Shol Communications Lagos An article on: Juvenile Justice Administration System and Factors Militating Against Effective Juvenile Justice Administration System in Nigeria. http://tribune.com.ng/index.php/tribune-law/2242-child-rights-act-and-problem-fimplementation visited on 22//1/2013 at 2:05am
Wigwe, C.C., Introduction to Criminal Law in Nigeria (Mountcrest University Press 2006)
Okonkwo and Naish, Criminal Law in Nigeria (Spectrum Law Publications 1994)
- Christopher and K. Heather, Criminal Law: Test and Materials (Sweet and Maxwell 2003)
- Cyprain and M. Naish, Criminal Law in Nigeria (excluding the North) (Sweet and Maxwell 1964)
- Smith and B. Hoga, Criminal Law (Butterworths 1996)
- Ormerod and K. Laird, Text, Cases and Materials on Criminal Law (Oxford University Press 2014)
Brink .D., Mass Progressive Principles (Oxford University Press 2013)
Child Justice reform in Nigeria. Article 40 (2003):.The Dynamics of Youth Justice and the Convention on the rights of the child in South Africa. Vol.5 No.3 Garner, B. A. (2004) Black’s Law Dictionary, 8 th edition, Thompson West, Texas
Chaio, V., ‘ What is the Criminal Law For?’  (35) Law and Philosophy; 137-163
CRC Country Reports (1992–1996); Juvenile Justice and Juvenile Delinquency in Central and Eastern Europe, 1995; United Nations, Implementation of UN Mandates on Juvenile Justice in ESCAP, 1994; Geert Cappelaere, Children’s Rights Centre, University of Gent, Belgium. Murat C. Mungan, ‘ The Scope of Criminal Law’  (24) Public Law Journal, 101
Maher, Gerry. “Age and Criminal Responsibility. 2005 Vol 2. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. 493 
Okonkwo C. O. (1990).“The Child and Criminal Responsibility, The Nigerian Perspective”. The Federal Ministry of Health and Human Services and UNICEF. Lagos. pp. 16 -23
Unpublished Lecture Note from National Open University of Nigeria titled: Juvenile Institutions and Juvenile Correction in Nigeria, 2012