1.1 The Background of the Study
It has remained a paradox that Nigeria, a highly religious country, cannot deny in its historical records, the challenges of juvenile delinquency. Nigeria is a great nation with great fortunes and great opportunities. Although the subject of juvenile delinquency is an age long problem, it seems that the juvenile delinquency of the past cannot be evaluated with that of the present era in Nigeria. The challenges have become a cankerworm that has transmitted from juvenile delinquency to a violent crime which has subjected the country to a security threat and all sorts of crisis. The persistent increase in the rate of juvenile crimes in Nigeria and the abysmal failure by the diverse religious institutes to curb this problem have constituted a serious barrier to the country’s economic development since many “young ones who epitomizes the nation’s future” (Ugwuoke, 2010,p.23) are enmeshed in moral decadence. Juvenile delinquency is therefore viewed as a major impediment to socio-economic progress and a significant threat to national security.
The situation must however be understood against the backdrop of the flaws in fostering a genuine ethical cum religious teachings on the young ones by the diverse religious institutions that scattered across the country. Consequently, the researcher insisted on the need of revisiting the proper functions and the roles of religion by different religious institution in Nigeria which stands to curb the challenges of this delinquency. Hence, Omoregbe (2010) noted that “ethical teachings generate certain moral convictions and outlook which in turn influence and guide people’s conduct along certain directions.”(p.12) Obviously, unless something is done to roll back the wave of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria, the prospect of a better, safer and more prosperous society emerging in the country will remain elusive.
Juvenile delinquency has caused much concern in recent time not only because of its rising rate of occurrence, but due to its accompanying implications. Although, most juvenile misconducts are usually considered less harmful than crimes but such conducts easily led to crimes when remedial measures was not applied urgently. Dambazau (2007) enumerated major causes of juvenile delinquency to include “peer pressure, parental neglect, parental imitation, genetic or biological factor, poor education and lack of opportunities, media violence, poverty, child abuse and other similar causes of adult criminal behavior.”(p.339) These causes of delinquency are in line with Nolen-Hoekseme (2001) who also observed that “These criminal behaviours committed by minors are collectively referred to as juvenile delinquency.”
The challenges of these delinquencies in Nigeria have thus become an academic concern owing to the damages suffered by its perpetrators. The paramount of the problem according to (Redl and Wineman ,1997,p.286) is that these young ones “often do not see anything wrong in what they do.” The challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria cannot be effectively discussed without highlighting the probable social costs of this endemic disease to Nigerian nation. Most uncurbed delinquencies has in recent times, developed into violent crimes which the evidence is manifested in the activities of bombing by the boko haram sect and other violent groups in Nigeria. These violent crimes as noted by Brown (1996) are “those crimes that involve physical injury, destruction of property and socio-psychological costs of trauma”. These crimes specifically include rape, assaults, armed robbery, arson murder, thuggery and political assassinations, bombing and kidnapping.
Therefore, a thorough search on the solution to the challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria has called for re-awakening of the roles of religion whose major functions is appealing to the conscience of the juveniles through ethical teachings and building of moral behaviour. It is therefore, worthy of note that children form the bedrock of any society. Adequate protection of this young segment of population is thus a sine qua non for development albeit national security of modern nation states. A nation with high religious pluralism ought to produce less delinquents children consequent upon the fact that religion encompasses sound religious indoctrination and ethical teachings which enthrones moral uprightness in the young ones. Therefore Religions’ role which also include to restores ethical values and rids the society of social vices such as juvenile delinquency and many other forms of evil must be retraced.
1.2 The Statement of the Problem
The challenges of juvenile delinquency is an age long problem, it seems that the juvenile delinquency of the past cannot be compared with that of the present era. However, a juvenile delinquent is one who indulges in antisocial behaviour, some of which could be regarded as crime if committed by an adult. The antisocial behaviour often associated with the juvenile delinquents’ include; truancy, cheating, weapon carrying, petty stealing, school drop outs, indecent dressing, cultism, watching of pornographic movies and magazines, small scale pilfering, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, insubordination, sagging, vandalism etc. This act which is juvenile misbehaviour have metamorphosed today to juvenile or youthful exuberance which Nigeria is manifested in such acts as students demonstration, riots, gambling, sports hooliganism, bombing and kidnapping, and so on. Cohen (1965) noted that “these young people usually have related problems; some of them are products of broken homes.”(p.74) The issue of juvenile delinquency is one of the major concerns to families, churches, neighbourhood, schools, law enforcement agencies and the society at large. Children and young person whom the law defines as juveniles are increasingly being introduced and used in serious crimes.
The causative factors of this problem according to Dambazzau (2007) are “peer pressure, parental neglect, parental imitation, genetic or biological factor, poor education, lack of opportunities, media violence, poverty, divorce, child abuse and other similar causes of adult criminal behavior.” The family is under distress because of the ongoing issue. The school system and other socialization institutions are seriously losing the capabilities to inculcate right morals and values in the young ones. Economic pursuits have taken the centre stage that brought about parental neglect. School teachers engage in other transactions at the expense of their profession just to make ends meet. The emergence of ICT with all its benefits, equally impact negatively in these young ones. There are morally debased information items that are posted daily on the internet and these young ones have access to such devastating items of information without restrictions. All these developments tend to increase the emergence of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria and globe.
Many roles have been played by different scholars through different medium and means to put an end to this problem but the fact remains that, there is a global increase of juvenile delinquencies, despite the fundamental efforts put in place by nations of the world and Nigeria as a country to fight this unhealthy phenomenon. The situation must however be understood against the backdrop of the deviation of focus in fostering a genuine ethical cum religious teachings on the young ones by the diverse religious institute that scattered across the country.
The most bothering questions that this research tried to deal with are the questions about whether the challenges of juvenile delinquency is peculiar to Nigeria as a country and the extent in which other scholars have gone in tackling of this national problem. Also it become burdensome why must there be high rate of this delinquency amidst many religious institutions in Nigeria and why is the role of ethics in dealing with this delinquency problem being relegated. It also seeks to prove whether religion and ethical principles can provide a possible solution to ameliorate this juvenile delinquency. What actually is the subject of juvenile crime and what popular theories including modernization surround it.