… Says imprisonment of under-age children remains unlawful
Lagos state government has described the imprisonment of some underage children recently set free from different prisons across the State by the Lagos State Chief Judge, Justice Funmilayo Atilade as unlawful, restating its full support for the protection of children’s rights through the Child Rights Law.
The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Funmilola Odunlami made this known of Friday at Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja during an interactive session with relevant stakeholders on children welfare matters including prison officials, officers of the Nigeria Police Force among others.
She explained that the intention of the Child Rights Law is to prescribe appropriate sanctions for children found in conflict with the law and provide appropriate rehabilitation methods rather than issuing imprisonment term.
According to the Solicitor-General, there is need to provide appropriate training for Magistrates presiding over matters concerning children in conflict with the law as well as relevant stakeholders, adding that the appropriate court which is Family Court should be allowed to exercise jurisdiction on matters affecting minors.
She said that there is need for all hands to be on deck to checkmate incidences of restiveness among children through proper parental upbringing and societal support.
“Parents must begin to assume responsibility for their children by being more alive to their responsibilities. Gone are the days when parents left their roles to religious organsiations and government”
“Legal officers should also know their areas of jurisdictions and limitations as well as law enforcement officers so that appropriate authorities could be contacted when the need arises” She stated.
Odunlami maintained that if appropriate Courts are allowed to preside over issues that concern them directly, the incidences of sentencing minors to prisons would drastically reduce.
Stakeholders at the occasion deliberated on issues regarding alternative means of punishing children and introduction of community services by Magistrates when sentencing the minors.
They also sought for improved synergy between Ministry of Youth and Social Development and Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation for the introduction of additional skills acquisition programmes for children in correctional centres and rehabilitation homes.
Personalities at the event which include Director of Public Prosecution, Mrs Titilayo Shitta – Bay, Hon. Justice Idowu, Mrs. Ibirogba Director of Citizens Rights, Mrs. Salami Director of Public Defender, Mrs. Kareem Ikotun Director Community Service, Controller of Prison Julius Ezugwu and others deliberated on various ways to reduce the sentencing of children to prisons.