For the purposes of determining the legal age of sexual consent, we shall be relying on the provisions of the Child Rights Act (2003). However, we must understand that the in 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State Assemblies also enact it. To date, only about 16 of the country's 36 States have passed the Act. The Act aims to promote and protect the rights of children and it is quite important that other states in Nigeria yet to adopt same do so in the interest of the children of that state.
With regard to sexual intercourse with children, the Act provides in Section 31, that-
(1) No person, shall have sexual intercourse with a child.
(2) A person who contravenes the provision of Subsection (1) of this section commits an offence of rape and is liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
(3) Where a person is charged with an offence under this section, it is immaterial that—
(a) the offender believed the person to be of or above the age of eighteen years ; or
(b) the sexual intercourse was with the consent of the child.
The above provisions simply mean that sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor is prohibited and such adult cannot claim that he/she believed the minor to be 18 or the intercourse was with the consent of the child.
Other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation provided for in the Child Rights Act can be found in Section 32 which provides that -
(1) A person who sexually abuses or sexually exploits a child in any manner not already mentioned under the Act commits an offence.
(2) A person who commits an offence under Subsection (1) of this section is liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term of fourteen years.
The above provisions of the Act anticipate situations of sexual exploitation against minors which may have not been provided for in the Act and states that such acts will find the offender liable to 14yrs imprisonment.
Adedunmade Onibokun Esq.