THE NATURE AND CAUSES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY IN NIGERIA

BY ABUBAKAR LAWAN ABUBAKAR

ABSTRACT
Youth dishonest tendency or Juvenile delinquency in another word is seen as one of the menace that destroys life and property in our society today. Because of the nature of crime committed by juvenile, the parents, guidance, sponsors and well wishers are worried and disturbed about our future leaders. Crime associated with juvenile include: rape, stealing, shoplifting, kleptomanias, burglary, disobedience, homicide, truancy, vandalization and robbery etc.

INTRODUCTION

Juvenile delinquency is that behaviour on the part of children which may, under the law, subject those children to juvenile court. Tappan (1972) assert that “the nature of juvenile delinquency sprang up from different abnormal behaviour such as stealing or shoplifting, 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.

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.

Delinquency is a form of anti-social behavior whereby although it does not necessarily refer to illegal behavior, most of the time delinquent behavior does not conform to social norms and values.

Juvenile delinquency refers to delinquent and criminal behaviour among young people as they negotiate the transition from childhood to adulthood in an increasingly complex and confusing world. Although the issue 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. The antisocial behaviours often associated with the juvenile delinquents’ include vandalism, drug abuse, weapon carrying, alcohol abuse, rape, examination malpractices, school violence, bullying, cultism, truancy, school drop-outs, to mention but a few. Obviously, unless something is done to roll back the wave of juvenile delinquency, the prospect of a better, safer and more prosperous society emerging in Nigeria will remain elusive.

Delinquent behaviour, simply means a behaviour that youngsters do that goes against the standard of the society, regardless whether the action is legal or illegal.

World youth report (2007) said that children delinquent behaviour has been constantly heard in the news and hardly a week passes without a report in any of the National dailies of serious anti social acts which have been committed by school children. Consequently, there is often an official pronouncement, which expresses anxiety about growing incidence of juvenile crimes.

A close observation of what is happening in our institutions of learning today will definitely show that delinquency, especially juvenile is a very serious obstacle to the academic progress. World youth report, (2007) said that young people who are at the risk of becoming delinquent often live in different circumstances. For instance children who for various reasons including parental alcoholism, poverty, breakdown of the family, over-crowding, abusive conditions in the home, the death of parents, orphans without the means of subsistence housing and other basic necessities are at great risk of falling into juvenile delinquency. The number of children in especially difficult circumstances is estimated to have increased from 80 million to 160 million between 2001-2006 (Ademiu, 2007).

Igbimoria (1990) viewed that juvenile offence in Nigeria do not operate in well organized gangs, but there have instances of assault and vandalism committed by small groups of juveniles. Today, other offences committed by small groups of juveniles include looting and other acts of vandalism especially when encouraged during political campaigns and sex offences.

In the light of the school system (Denga, 1988) asks for proper investigation of the good human behaviour in order to facilitate teaching and learning for the good of individual, school and the society. Generally, it is the desire of all and sundry including the ones who perform below average to excel or to be accorded accolades. Though they may not outwardly imply that, but it has been observed that deep down their hearts, they desire excellent academic performance (Obi, 2004). Inspite of this however, a cursory look at the yearly school turn out results reveals that students fail massively in internal and externally administered examinations in Akwa Ibom State and Essien Udim Local Government Area in particular.

In the period under consideration, the average failure rate is above 50%. The normal expectation is that the failure rate should be lower than the pass rate. The reverse is the case. This failure is sufficiently high to give cause for concern.

Stakeholders in the education industry such as parents, school authorities, teachers, officials of the ministry of education and the students themselves are restive and concerned at the high casualty rate of agricultural science students in public examination.

It is easy to note from the above that poor performance of students   is not linked to teacher-teacher variable alone. However, the teaching and learning process has so many other variables apart from the teachers to contend with.

The juvenile delinquency of the learner is a strong force in the learning process that has to be considered. The sphere of social behaviour (juvenile delinquency) constitutes one of the predominant factors that may impinge on students’ performance.

 

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 kleptomanias 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 13,782 out of 26,259 youths between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty one (21) were responsible for crimes committed this year.

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.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Nature: This is defined as the usual way a person or an animal behaves that is part of their character.

Consequence: This simply means a result of something that has happened.

Adolescent: youths ranging in age from 13 to 17.

Juvenile: This refers to a person who has attained the age of 14 but is under 17 years. That is a young person who is not yet an adult (Oxford English Dictionary).

Delinquent: It is a person who deviates from or violated the stipulated law that guides code of conduct of a particular country or society.

Juvenile Delinquency: Andy (2004) defined it as any social deviation by a youth from the societal norms which results in his contact with law enforcement agents. It is an act committed by a young person which violated the stipulated law of that country or society.

Stealing: This means an act of taking something from a person’s shop/store, etc. without permission and without intending to return it or pay for it.

Truancy: This simply means a practice of staying away from school without permission. It is a crime to juvenile.

Shoplifting: the stealing, for personal gain, of property from retail stores. Attempted shoplifting is not included.

 

Causes

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

Researches indicate that various exposures to violence within the family or outside the family are important sources of delinquencies. In other words, if violence encompasses all emotional environmental aspects of the juvenile’s life, he is more likely to engage in delinquent activities (Hagan and Foster 2001).

Factors leading to Juvenile Delinquency

There are several factors that have led to increased juvenile delinquency among the youth in Nigeria. For the purpose of this research, these factors can be either pull factors or push factors.

  1. Poverty

Poverty is the state of inability to obtain a certain minimum level of consumption of food and essentially no food items universally considered to satisfy the minimum requirements for human sustenance. Poverty is not always an absolute state but can relate more generally to a situation in which the family income is not sufficient to meet outgoing and where alternative means of meeting these outgoing needs must be found.

Poverty may be a state in which a family lives with no possessions at all and cannot afford to put food on the table. It may be a temporary situation where a family has entered into debt, for example by borrowing money it cannot afford to repay, or by acquiring goods and dedaulting on repayments.

Poverty has pushed most children to performing delinquent acts as a means of survival. Overall, the people most affected by poverty are well defined by other socio-economic categories namely, the landless, pastoralist, the handicapped, female-headed households, households headed by people without formal education, unskilled casual workers, AIDS ophans, street children and beggars. The major contributing factor to the exposure of these categories of persons is the increasing of inequality in the distribution of wealth and income, poor access to economic and social goods as well as remunerative employment, inequality in the participation in social and political process and in other life choice.

  1. Lack of access to education

In many parts of the world, children who are denied access to education (for example, because of the costs involved, geographical factors or insufficient resources) or whose experience of the neighbourhood school is negative (porr quality teaching, abusive or absent of teachers) tend to get involved in juvenile delinquency to a large extent.

Lack of education therefore creates idleness among the youth who continually engage themselves in criminal activities.

  1. Breakdown of family structure

A long history of research has further linked family dysfunction with future criminal offending, in part because parents monitor and provide nurturance to children. It is thought that the loosening of bonds among family members may result in more criminal involvement. In most cases, delinquents have been viewed as individuals who come from less-intact families often referred to as “broken homes”.

A study by Demuth and Brown (2004), demonstrates that broken homes are associated with juvenile delinquency but also that family arrangements are not just a broken home issue. Specifically, the researchers found that levels of juvenile delinquency were much higher in teenagers residing with single fathers and lowest among teenagers who were part of a two-parent household. The researchers suggest that higher levels of delinquency among children residing with their fathers were due mainly to inadequate parental involvement in a teenager’s life. Demuth and Brown drew the inference that overall, the lack of supervision and the absence of close relationships between the teenager and his parents are factors that influence delinquency. Hoffman and Johnson’s (1998) findings corroborate Demuth and Brown’s (2004), suggesting that were parental supervision and parental bonding lead to delinquency.

 

Conclusion

Nearly all cultures possess a transition phase from childhood into adulthood. As the world is changing, is this the transition into adulthood. Whereas in the past in most industrialized countries, this transition ranged from brief to almost non-existent, it is now a significant part of a person’s development. It is now known as adolescence.

In fact the popular term “teenager” was not coined until the 1950s to describe this new group of people living through adolescence. It is believed that this new, drawn-out transition from childhood into adulthood that is common in the western world has left many adolescents in a sort-of limbo where they must seek to define their identity and place in the world, and delinquency may provide a way to do that.

This is supported by the fact that crime is committed disproportionately by those aged between fifteen and twenty-five. However, contrary to popular belief it is very rare for teenagers to become spontaneously aggressive, antisocial or violent simply with the onset of adolescence unless certain variables in the child’s life are not in order.

In Nigeria today, juvenile delinquency and crime is on the increase posing threats to the safety and security of lives and properties. Under this scenario, scholars are forced question the variables responsible for this ugly trend. Among some of the variables such as the family setting, poverty and peer influence.

Recommendations

Since poverty appears to be the primary cause of juvenile delinquency, the government at all levels should step- up efforts to improve the economy, as a matter of urgency. This can be done by stemming the tide of unemployment, improving the remuneration of workers, improving infrastructure, creating job opportunities, and empowering the masses in various conceivable ways. This would go a long way to raise the socio-economic condition of most families thus reducing the poverty rate in the country.

The government at all levels should not only provide free basic education but also take practical steps to ensure that the education they give is truly and completely free, qualitative, and necessarily compulsory. Legislating and effecting punitive measures on education stakeholders that default will enhance success in this direction.

It is instructive for school to administrators should step-up efforts to curb every form of truancy and loitering in and around their respective schools so that students may be disciplined to stay put in schools and pay attention to their lessons.

Parents and guardians should not neglect their responsibility to provide for members of their family irrespective of whether they are related by blood or by adoption.

The family as an agent of socialization should be educated on the psychological effect of broken homes on juvenile’s behavior.

The role of juvenile justice institutions should be extended and strengthen to monitor juvenile behaviors in schools.

 

 

 

References

Niyi A. (2015), Factors responsible for juvenile Dilinquency in Nigeria: a case study of selected primary schools in Ikorodu, Lagos State, Nigeria. School of Arts and Social Sciences, National Open University of Nigeria.

www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/RHSS/article/download/20744/21413

http://academicperformanceresearch.blogspot.com/2016/02/causes-and-consequences-of-juvenile.html

http://www.shopliftingprevention.org/what-we-do/learning-resource-center/psychological-studies/

http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/6346/Nanjala_Analysis%20Of%20The%20Factors%20Leading%20To%20Juvenile%20Delinquency%20The%20Case%20Of%20Murang%E2%80%99A%20Children%E2%80%99S%20Remand%20Home..pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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