THE NATURE AND CONSEQUENCES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY IN NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
Juvenile delinquency is that behaviour on the part of children which may, under the law, subject those children to juvenile court. Tappan (1972:12) assert that “the nature of juvenile delinquency sprang up from different abnormal behaviour such as stealing, drunkenness, burglary, robbery, rape, homicide, idleness, truancy, prostitution, disobedience, running away from home, kleptomanism and sexual promiscuity. Furthermore, it is nothing but a fact to say that juvenile offenders who after serving a good or complete numbers of his or her punishment in prison and still continue in deviance is because they are associated with adult prisoners. In this regard Mr. Sanusi, project Director of Lawyers continued Education Project (LAWCEP) maintained that “in our society, where the process of trial is delayed unduly, the young offender spends more time with hardened criminals than elsewhere.
Different forms of delinquency have been with man as far back as we can think but modern trends have made them take a very sharp rise. Glucks (1959) found out that juvenile delinquency is not a new occurrence during adolescent years but rather a continuation of anti-social behaviours from childhood due to environmental subjections or family problems affecting his mental development. That is to say that there exit a close link between delinquency and the home environment of the juvenile. The earliest known code of laws (the Code of Hammurabi) took specific note of the duties of children to parents and prescribed punishments for violations. As legal systems were elaborated, the age of offenders continued to be important in defining responsibility for criminal behaviour.
The Nigerian constitution of 1979 defines juvenile delinquency as “a crime committed by a young person under the age of 18 years as a result of trying to comply with the wishes of his peers or to escape from parental pressure or certain emotional stimulation’. Before a youth in Nigeria is classified a delinquent, he must have been arraigned before a juvenile court and proved to be guilty of some offences. Examples of such offences are habitual truancy, drug addiction, prostitution, stealing, cultism, armed robbery etc. The consequences that juvenile delinquency has caused to Nigerian society are not only devastating but numerous. They destroy both lives and property and they also retard the growth of this country.
Juvenile delinquency has also contributed to the bad image of our country (Nigeria). For the fact that most of the delinquent want to get rich quick, corruption and ritual killings has become the order of the day in coming to our political sphere, they have turn politics into a do or die affair where thuggery and fighting is the norm. This has made politics in our country (Nigeria) a dangerous venture.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
If an investigation or a study is carried out about juvenile delinquency in Nigeria, the result will definitely show that cases like rampant stealing, armed robbery, prostitution, manslaughter, drug addiction, vandalization, truancy, murder, rape, cultism, burglary and kleptomanism and many other crimes and delinquent behaviour are common among the youth.
Because of the alarming rate of juvenile delinquency in our country today, governments, parents, guidance, sponsors, teachers, moralists and well meaning Nigerians have all picked interest on its adverse effects in our society. Also the increasing waves of juvenile delinquency in our country place lives, properties and future of our youth at stake. For example, in 1989, records of crime as reported by the Lagos state police command revealed that youths between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty one (21) were responsible for adult. 13,782 out of 26,259 crimes committed this year i.e. 1989 were juvenile. Such crime ranges from shop looting, drug abuse, fighting, raping and stealing etc.
The similar report also indicated that in the same year (1989) out of 43,000 prisoners serving in various Nigerian prisons, over 23,000 of them were aged between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty five (25) years. Therefore, this study seeks to look at the nature, consequences and extent of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria among our youth.