Children are impressionable and sincere. In the absence of influence from adults children are most likely given to telling the truth at all times. Perhaps, this is so because they are most times, unaware of the consequences of their sincerity.
Under the Nigerian law however, a child is a competent and compellable witness unless he is by reason of tender age or any other natural cause prevented from giving rational answers to questions put to him. The Evidence Act 2011 states that a child who has not attained the age of 14 years shall not be sworn even when he understands the nature of an oath. The court in her discretionary consideration in that circumstances is duty bound to assure itself that the child possess sufficient intelligence to justify the reception of his evidence and that he understands the duty to speak the truth.
It must be noted however that where the child has attained the age of 14 years his evidence must be procured on oath unless he is prevented from giving rationale answers to questions put to him or from speaking the truth by reason of his age, religious beliefs or any other infirmity.
Furthermore, where the court receives the evidence of a child who has not attain the age of 14 years unsworn as provided by the Evidence Act the court cannot convict the defendant upon the unsworn evidence unless the evidence is corroborated by some other material evidence in support of such testimony implicating the defendant. Note that in the case of an unsworn evidence of a child who has attained the age of 14 years, the Evidence Act is silent as to whether corroborative evidence is required before conviction can be sustained. It however my view that such evidence needs independent corroborative testimony to support the child’s unsworn evidence to forestall every likelihood of error emanating from infirmity, tender age, disease of the mind or even religious beliefs.
It must be stressed that the evidence which will provide the necessary corroboration most not in itself requires corroboration like the evidence of an accomplice. It must be material evidence that is in itself devoid of suspicion and other legal impediments.
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