There have been debates on the legality of corporal punishment in Nigeria, especially when inflicted on children. While some segments of the Nigerian population feel it is necessary for childrearing for correction purposes, others think of it as child abuse. Is corporal punishment legal in Nigeria is the question this article seeks to answer. As you read on, you’ll discover what the position of the law is on corporal punishment in the home, school, and alternative care settings, as well as sentences for crime.
Is Corporal Punishment Legal in Nigeria?
Yes, corporal punishment is legal in Nigeria according to provisions of the Criminal Code, the Penal Code, and the Sharia Penal Codes. Though Section 11 of the Child Rights Act states that every Nigerian child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and should not be subjected to physical, mental, or emotional injury, abuse, neglect, or maltreatment, these provisions do not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in child-rearing.
What is the Position of the Law on Corporal Punishment in Home Settings in Nigeria?
In this section of this article, we’d identify the enacted laws of Nigeria whose provisions permit corporal punishment in the home. We begin with the Criminal Code Act which governs the southern part of Nigeria. According to Section 295 of the Criminal Code: “A blow or other force, not In any case extending to a wound or grievous harm, may be justified for the purpose of correction as follows: (1) a father or mother may correct his or her legitimate or illegitimate child, under sixteen years of age, for misconduct or disobedience to any lawful command; (2) a master may correct his servant or apprentice”.
The Penal Code which applies to the northern part of Nigeria also views corporal punishment as lawful as long as it does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt on whoever is being punished. Section 55 (1)(a) of the Penal Code states: ” Nothing is an offense which does not amount to the infliction of grievous hurt upon any person and which is done: by a parent or guardian for the purpose of correcting his child or ward, such child or ward being under eighteen years of age.” The Shari’a Penal Codes in the northern States of Nigeria also confirm these provisions of Section 55(1)(a) of the Penal Code.
Going by the provisions contained in the Criminal Code, Penal Code, and the Sharia Penal Codes, corporal punishment in a home setting is lawful if it does not lead to injury or grievous harm to the child receiving the physical punishment. The Child Rights Act, particularly Section 11, upholds that every Nigerian child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and should not be subjected to physical, mental, or emotional injury, abuse, neglect, or maltreatment, however, corporal punishment is not explicitly prohibited.
What is the Position of the Law in School Settings in Nigeria?
Corporal punishment is lawful in schools per the provisions of the Criminal Code and the Penal Code. Section 295(4) of the Criminal Code states: “A father or mother or guardian, or a person acting as a guardian, may delegate to any person he or she entrusts permanently or temporarily with the governance or custody of his or her own child or ward all his or her own authority of correction, including the power to determine in what cases correction ought to be inflicted; and such a delegation shall be presumed, except in so far it may be expressly withheld, in the case of a schoolmaster or person acting as a schoolmaster, in respect of a child or ward”.
Similarly, Section 55 of the Penal Code views corporal punishment in schools as lawful as long as the schoolmaster does so for the purpose of correcting a child, under eighteen years of age, entrusted to his charge. The provisions of Section 55 of the Penal Code only accept corporal punishments that do not cause grievous hurt upon any person, as lawful.
These provisions also apply to early childhood care and daycare for older children. More so, corporal punishment is lawful in alternative care settings. However, there have been some talks made by the Government about the prohibition of corporal punishment in school settings per the provisions of the National Education Policy. This policy is yet to be confirmed into law at the time of writing this piece.
What is the Position of the Law on Corporal Punishment as a Sentence for Crime in Nigeria?
In Nigeria, the Child Rights Act, particularly Section 221(1)(b), prohibits penal institutions to use corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure for children under 18 years, however, there is no explicit prohibition applicable in all the States of the Federation. Akwa Ibom State, for example, has modified the definition of a child to be 16 years and under. Given this, a child older than 16 years could be sentenced as an adult, including corporal punishment, per the provisions of the Criminal Code 1916 and the Criminal Procedure Act.
Jigawa is another State that modifies the provisions of Section 221 of the Child Rights Act. A child in Jigawa State is defined with reference to puberty, therefore a Muslim child that has attained puberty may be sentenced to corporal punishment under the provisions of the Sharia Penal Code 2000 and the Sharia Criminal Procedure Code Law.
In the States where the Child Rights Act has not been adopted, Section 9 of the Children and Young Persons Law upholds that: ” Where a juvenile charged with any offense is tried by a court and the court is satisfied with his guilt, the court may…(f) order the offender to be whipped.”. Section 11(2) of the Children and Young Persons Law states: “No young person shall be ordered to be imprisoned if the opinion of the court can suitably be dealt with in any other way whether by probation, fine, corporal punishment, committal to a place of detention or an approved institution or otherwise.”.