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Paedophilia: The Legal Consequences of Defilement in Nigeria

Paedophilia: The Legal Consequences of Defilement in Nigeria

Paedophilia: The Legal Consequences of Defilement in Nigeria
By Oboh favour LL.B(in view)

The crime of defilement is rampant in Nigeria but has little prosecutions as majority of the cases are covered up due to social, cultural, economic and religious reasons. Many times families of these victims are ignorant of the steps to take to ensure justice is done and so the paedophiles go scot-free.
This article attempts to evaluate the phenomenon of defilement in Nigeria while revealing the statutory punishment available. This article attempts to educate the masses on the illegality of defilement and the steps to take to achieve justice for the defiled victims .
Keywords: Defilement

Paedophilia is according to Wikipedia, a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children. The Oxford dictionary defines paedophilia as sexual feelings directed towards children. The cut-off age for one to be regarded as a paedophile is age thirteen. This simply means that sexual feeling directed towards a child older than thirteen would not usually be deemed paedophilia.
Paedophilia is psychiatric disorder that is not only morally abhorrent but it also wrecks havoc on the physical, mental and emotional state of the victim. Unfortunately, paedophilia is on the increase in Nigeria with a UNICEF survey revealing in 2015 that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18 . Not surprisingly, this study reveals that the female child is more at risk of being a victim of paedophilic acts.

There are a plethora of reasons why paedophilia is growing rampant while seeming like the Nigerian law as nothing to say about it. These reasons include religion, culture, social stigma, and unavailability of justice in certain parts of the nation due to socio-economic factors.

In a majority of child defilement cases, the perpetrators are usually family members, family friends, neighbours, and leaders in educational, social and religious institutions. In the case of Maduabuchi Onwuta v The State of Lagos, a recent case, the appellant was the brother of the victim’s mother who lived close by.

No matter what the prevalent socio-cultural stance is on defilement, the Nigerian criminal law frowns on it and perpetrators, if found guilty can be sanctioned depending on the relevant laws guarding the jurisdiction the crime occurred in.

Punishment for Defilement
Defilement is sexual intercourse with a child below the age of thirteen. The Nigerian Criminal Law prohibits defilement and anyone found guilty of the act would be subject to certain prescribed punishments.
The Nigerian criminal law is made up the criminal code, used in the south and the penal code, used in the North. These are federal laws but nonetheless, each state is expected to ratify these laws and make alterations as is relevant for the administration of justice in the state. For example, section 137 of the criminal code, ch.17, Vol.3, Laws of Lagos State condemns defilement in Lagos State.

According to section 218 of the Criminal Code Act ,

“Any person who has unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of thirteen years is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for life with and without caning.”

The attempt of this crime will render the defendant liable to imprisonment for fourteen years, with or without caning .
The Penal act code in section 282 , refers as rape sexual intercourse between a man and a girl below the age of fourteen notwithstanding that consent was given. The statutory punishment for any such act is “imprisonment for life or for such not less than three years” .

Ingredients of Defilement:
To establish the crime of defilement, the following elements of the crime must be effectively established by the prosecution and be proved beyond reasonable doubt as held in Ani v State . In addition, according to section 135 of the Evidence Act , the Standard of proof in criminal cases is beyond reasonable doubt and not beyond all shadow of doubt.

Moving on, the elements of defilement are outlined below:

1. That there was sexual intercourse with the child who at the material time was below the age of thirteen
2. That there was penetration
3. The evidence of the child must be corroborated.
On corroboration, the court in Adonike v The State PER J. I. OKORO adopted the definition of coroboartion given in Oludotun Ogunbayo v. The State as,
“corroboration is not a technical term or art, but means no more than evidence, tending to confirm, support and strengthen other evidence sought to be corroborated.”
This means that the testimony of the child alone is not sufficient to establish the offence. There is the need for some other form of evidence to give support, strengthen or confirm the testimony of the child. In the case of Onwuta V The State of Lagos State, it can be observed that the statement of the victim was supported by medical records, circumstantial evidence and the appellant’s statement.
In addition to the above, it is necessary that prosecution of the case commences within two months of the commission of the act.

Unfortunately, a large majority of perpetrators of defilement cases go unpunished. This is because according to Waheed Ishola, The Director of the National Orientation Agency, Lagos State, a whopping 60% of child abuse cases are never made public. This is both regrettable and sad.

Below are steps parent, guardians, caretakers and well wishers of children who are defiled should take as soon as the act is noticed:

1. A report is to be made to the police station as soon as possible to prevent delay in investigations
2. There should be a medical examination carried out on the victim
3. Parents and guardians are expected to keep their children away from predators to prevent a repeat of the incident
4. Parents and guardians of the victims must never agree to any sort of agreement or settlements with these paedophiles
5. They are also advised to report such perpetrators to the social, religious and cultural leaders of institutions these predators submit themselves to.
6. Finally, Parents and guardians of victims must be ready to fight to the end to achieve justice for their violated wards and to prevent a recurrence in the neighbourhood.
7. The implementation of social stigma against perpetrators is necessary to prevent and reduce the occurrence of disgusting incidents such as these.


The crime of defilement is one which wrecks physical, emotional and mental havoc on the wellbeing of the victim and as such perpetrators must be punished to the full extent of the law.
It is therefore necessary that relatives and family and guardians do not cover up these predators but ensure that they are revealed and prosecuted.

Photo Credit: Arewa Agenda. Com


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