Revisiting the Age of Consent in Nigeria

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By Sam Omotoso Esq

The age of Consent in Nigeria is 18 years.

It is quite hilarious that a lot of persons believe that the age of consent in Nigeria is 11. This is much unfounded. Perusing all relevant Nigerian Laws and even foreign treaties Nigeria is signatory to, I cannot find any  that posits 11 years to be the age of Consent in Nigeria. But I will address where the confusion stems up from at the concluding part of this article.
First of all what is “Consent” and how does it affect Rape or any other sexual offenses?

Simply put, Consent in this instance is the age where a person can legally have sexual intercourse. Where a person has sexual relationship with another who has not gotten to the age required by law is guilty of a sexual offense. Sexual relationship includes but is not limited to; Sex, inappropriate touching on or in the private part, and other related activities. The Criminal Code Act and Criminal Code Laws of various states refer to sexual activities with a person who has not gotten to the age of Consent as “Defilement”.

Whether the party who is not up to the age to perform sexual activities says “yes” or answers in any way that shows a positive response, it does not matter, it is still a sexual offense. Even where a person is not aware of the age, it will not stand as an excuse as “ignorance of the law is not an excuse” as embedded in the maxim “Ignorantias jury non excusat”.

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The question that begs for an answer is; what is the age of Consent in Nigeria?

Several Laws have said several things. Most are not even direct, but we can interpret using the mischief rule. The mischief rule entails us using “the intention of the draftsmen”

  • According to Section 31 Child’s Rights Act the age of consent is 18 years.
  • According to Section 7 Sexual Offences bill, the age of Consent is 18 years.
  • According to Section 18 Matrimonial Causes Act, the age of consent is 21 years.
  • According to Section 221 Criminal code Act, the age of consent is 16 years.
  • According to Section 23 of the Cyber Crime (Prohibition,Prevention ETC) Act, the age of consent is 18 years.

Since there is no uniformed age per se, how did I arrive at 18 years?

  1. The Child Rights Act is the most popular among the above mentioned legislations; this is because 24 out of the 36 states including the F.C.T making it 37 in Nigeria have domesticated it. Making it applicable in those states. And the Child Rights Act puts the age of Consent at 18 years.
  2. Furthermore a community reading of the above mentioned Laws puts it at 18 years with the exception of the Criminal Code Act which puts it at 16 years.

Therefore it will suffice to state that the age of consent in Nigeria is 18 years. It is therefore a case of the majority willing the election.

It is imperative to note that Sex with anyone under this age is an offense. Let us consider one of the provisions of the legislations above. SEXUAL OFFENCES BILL, SECTION 7 –

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Section 7 of the Sexual Offences Bill prohibits sexual intercourse with anyone between the ages of 0 to 18. It punishes offenders with life imprisonment upon conviction. That Section 7 states that;

  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.

It is important to state that Defilement and any other sexual offence should be reported on time. According to Section 218 of the Criminal Code Act, it enunciates that prosecution should start within two months after the sexual activity occurs. For various states and various Laws there might be no time bar, however the more hours and days roll by, the more difficult it is to prove a sexual offence. No matter how dark the experience might have been, it is of keen importance to make hey while the sun shines.

Conclusion

Ageofconsent.net for whatever reason leads the misconception that the age of consent in Nigeria is 11. Other factors includes the uncertain minimum age of marriage in Nigeria and the fact that certain states (Mostly Northern) have refused to domesticate the Child’s Rights Act. If the latter can be done, the uniformity in the law will give no room for discrepancies.

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Relevant laws

  • Child’s Rights Act 2003
  • Criminal code Act LFN 2004
  • Cyber Crime (Prohibition,Prevention ETC) Act 2015
  • Matrimonial Causes Act LFN 2004
  • Sexual Offences bill 2015

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