FACT CHECK: Nigeria’s Sexual Offences Bill stipulates 18 years, not 11 years, as age of consent

Femi Falana
Femi Falana

Contrary to the belief that the recently passed Sexual Offences Bill encourages the defilement of minors, the legislation actually prescribes a life imprisonment term for anyone who has sex with someone under 18 years, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

The bill, which was among‎ the 46 legislations hurriedly passed by the last National Assembly, stipulates life imprisonment for any individual convicted of raping or having sexual intercourse with a minor, among others.

It sparked outrage after earlier reports that it had set 11 years as the age of consent for sexual intercourse.

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, criticised the bill saying it empowerered the “clique of paedophiles.”

‎”All you need do is ‘marry’ even a six year old under any local laws, and do whatever you want with her. Through marriage, she is already an ‘adult.’ Her ‘defiler’ is now fully protected by this law. She is not,” he said at the time.

Femi Falana, a human rights lawyer, also described the bill as “obnoxious” and threatened to go to court if the bill is signed into law.

According to Mr. Falana, when the bill was unanimously passed for a second reading by the Senate on November 21, ‎2013, it sought a penalty of life imprisonment for the offence of defilement of children less than 18 years.

“It was that Committee (Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters) that illegally removed the age of 18 years and replaced it with 11 years,” said Mr. Falana.

In her response to the public outrage,‎ Chris Anyanwu, who sponsored the bill, accused its critics of hate-mongering and taking advantage of the negative public feelings built up against the legislature.

“I suspect that some of those fighting against the bill are fixating on the short title,” said Mrs. Anyanwu, a former member of the Senate.

“Its long title shows what it is: a sexual offences prevention bill; a tough deterrence to crime.”

‎What the bill says

The bill is known as “An Act to Make Provision About Sexual Offences, Their Definition, Prevention And the Protection Of All Persons From Harm, Unlawful Sexual Acts, And For Purposes Connected Therewith”.

Section 7 of the bill, the controversial part which dealt with defilement of children, states that:

‎7. (1) A person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty of an offence called defilement.

(2) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

(3) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

‎(4) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

Chioma Nwigwe, Director of The Eight Foundation, said the different sub-sections in Section 7 ought to have been merged into one sub-section.

“‎This bill actually recommends imprisonment for life as punishment for defilement of‎ any child below the age of 18,” said Ms. Nwigwe, whose organization is dedicated to highlighting the issue of sexual violence against women and providing victims with the necessary support. 

“However, what is confusing is why they chose to put those penalties in different sections. The bill could have simply said: ‘A person who commits an offence of defilement on any child is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.’ The child has already been defined by the Constitution and by the Children and Young Persons Act.

‎”A lot of people have read just one subsection, which is that subsection‎ that says ‘A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life’ and interpreted it to mean that 11 years is now the new age of consent, but that is not true. The same penalty is imposed on defilement of any child below the age of 18.‎”

Ms. Nwigwe called for an amendment of some sections of the bill, including Section (7)(5) which states that:

(5) It is a defence to a charge under the section (if)-

(a) It is proved that such child deceived the accused person into believing that he or she was over the age of eighteen years at the time of the alleged commission of the offence; and

(b) the accused person reasonably believed that the child was over the age of eighteen years.

‎”This is a child, you can’t expect‎ them to be responsible, that is why they are children,” she said. 

“That is why the law is expected to go out of its way to protect them. So when you impose responsibility on this child, you’ve taken away the protection the law offers them. The responsibility should be on the adult to make sure the child is over the age of 18, in which case they will no longer be children. 

“So what this law does is it takes away the coverage this law had given to the child and impose responsibility on the child. And that is what we should be fighting. These defences need to be taken out.”


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  • Aisha married buhari @9

    When Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima justified marriage of underage Children to much Older men, the entire country went overboard and labeled him a paedophile.
    I’m sure not many know that General Muhammadu Buhari is also a strong believer of the Sharia system and in the same vain, a strong believer of marrying out children to much older men.

    Some will say this is a non issue, but its good we know in totality the people we are placing our affairs in their hands.

    A research says that Aisha Buhari is 35 years old and got married to General Muhamadu Buhari in the year 1989 after divorcing his first wife for allegedly collecting welfare money from Babagida while he was in Prison.

    Aisha Buhari was born in 1979, which means in 1989 she was barely 9/10 years old when she was married of to our dear general.

    Their marriage is Blessed with 5 children and grand children. If at 35 she has grand children, I can only but ask: AT WHAT AGE WAS SHE WHEN GMB STARTED HAVING CARNAL KNOWLEDGE OF HER, JUDGING FROM THE AGE OF THEIR FIRST CHILD, MRS AISHA BUHARI WOULD HAVE BEEN NOTHING MORE THAN 12 YEARS OLD WHEN GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI GOT HER PREGNANT.

    I wouldn’t want an army general on my 12 year old daughter though!!!!!

  • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

    The fact that Nigeria’s definition of adulthood is perverted makes it very pertinent of the danger that any clause which renders ambiguity to the definition of rape can be exploited by perverts and pedophiles . Nigeria’s northern and Islamic law makers in the senate and house of representatives rooted for the definition which automatically changes the status of a child forced into under-aged marriage through the Sharia system as an adult.

    This last obnoxious bill then by implication allowed sex for children above 11 years of age by not recognising statutory rape as any form of sexual defilement of children below the age of 18. The northern Sharia states and their law makers always oppose and obstruct any law aimed at stopping sex with children and stamping out under-aged marriage citing religious reasons and that is indeed very unfortunate .

    This law is repugnant ,it must be challenged up to the supreme court. There is immense shame that in a country which brags of being a democracy of the 21st century,children cannot be fully protected from perverts all in the name of religion. Nigeria should define adulthood as any person of 18 years and above.Nigeria should make it a crime to have sexual activity of any sort including cyber or telephone with children. Nigeria should ban marriages of any sort with children under 18.

    These issues are not difficult to solve and the north as the only region of Nigeria where the horrible fistula disease is afflicting more than 200,000 women should be in the forefront rather than obstructing and encouraging sex with children !!

    • scarth

      It is a crime for someone to marry a child below 18 years of age, but its a right or lemme say civilization for such a child below 18 years to become pregnant out of wedlock! What a world we are. People like you don’t even know what civilization is. Some people are just big fools. You know nothing about Islam and Sharia, so keep your comments to what you know plz!

      • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

        If a minor should get pregnant through another minor,it does not attract punishment but through an adult or pervert like you must be punished.I do not need to be a Muslim to see the 200,000 women rendered societal rejects and stigmatized by the same northern Islamists who forced sex on them while they were under-aged and biologically immature for sex with your likes !!

        Shame on you !!

        • Jaey Myobb

          Exactly. These northerners are hardly educated and ignorant so, comments like the one above are not surprising

  • Joolze

    I’m not even sure the wordings of section 7 actually protects every children under eighteen years old as it only stipulate penalties for children under 11, between 12 & 15 and between 16 & 18 years only. It is therefore my assumption that those children between 11 & 12 and the ones between 15 and 16 are fair game which I believe is not the original intention of the sponsor(s). These loopholes and others mentioned in the article above ought to have been amended before its passage by our legislooters. Just a thought

  • Bin Fodio

    May this bill not see the light of the day as it is in total contravention of the scriptures! According to God The Lord and the laws of nature, any child that reaches the age of puberty is biologically, physiologically and mentally ready to get married. You can consult experts for that. So this talk of 18 years, is just noise and blah! blah! blah! And why 18years? Who decided on 18 years? Why not 21 years?

    The problem of rape is a different matter altogether. It is indeed a great abominable that must be punished to the greatest extent.

    To believers in scriptures, the scriptures are supreme to any human law.

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      You will never succeed in legalising pedophile activities in this country just like you strive to legalize Jihad, hide your head in shame you unrepentant pervert . 18 years will enable the girl child to attain O’level education at least and stop your mass illiteracy . Unschooled mothers raise illiterate children and almajeris,and extremist terrorists.

    • Bigzy

      If you are so keen on heavenly laws, maybe you should not be in this world. You should be in pedophile heaven, wherever that is.

    • Jaey Myobb

      Which God states that girls who reach puberty are mentally ready to get married? Perhaps your God refers to your pedophilic imam? 12 year old girls are not even mentally ready to become independent much less get married but you Northerners will never understand that. In fact, did you know that the brain is not fully developed, not even half way fully developed at age 12? So how then can these children be mentally and emotionally ready to be wives and not just wives but mothers?

  • Maitama Tambari.

    Religious bigot, Falana and Soyinka had never read the Bill to indirectly attract incorrectly that the Bill age limit was tempered with because of a certain religion’s tradition. Senator Anyawu was right to write Soyinka to read the Bill first before committing and embarrassing himself in writing to PMB not to sign the Bill into law. Yes, PMB should not sign the Bill into law because National Assembly was not so sure of its validity in a country whereby more than fifty percent of the population believe that marriage, being a personal and religious affair, politics has no place in it. They passed the Bill in the eleventh hour of their departure from the Seventh Assembly. This Bill contracdicts PMB believes and Soyinka and Falana have already advised him not to sign it into law. I will not sign it into law if I were PMB, period.

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      You definitely are blinded by your lust for children. YOU CANNOT INTERPRET THE LAW MORE THAN FALANA………MARK MY WORDS !!

      All the defenders of this bill are northern Muslims,does it not send out a loud message to the civilised world that you people are generally still living in the stone age !!

  • Bigzy

    This clarification has been long in coming and I am now sure that the Bill does protect children under 18 from defilement. It is now left for the objectors to accept that they were wrong in their inerpretation. Specifically, I call on Wole Soyinka and Falana to publicly drop their objections or provide proof that they were actually right in their ascertion all along. The objections have led to huge antipathy against the bill which might lead to delays in its being signed into law. For the protection of our children, it is imparative that these well meaning objectors should acknowledge their misunderstanding so that we can move forward in one man.

    • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

      Nothing has changed ! The definition of rape for children above 11 is unacceptable and generally the definition of adulthood is still obscene.

      • Bigzy

        So, what about these subsections of section 7?

        (3) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

        ‎(4) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life.

        They appear to be pretty much the same as those applicable to ages 11 and under.

        • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

          What about children between the ages of 11 and 12 ?

          What about children between the ages of 15 and 16 ?

          There are smart escape routes for pedophiles in this law. The language is suspect and ambiguous. It is ill-conceived and in bad faith !!

          • Bigzy

            Now, I think that ou are being pedantic.

            You are 11 until your turn 12.
            You are 15 till you turn 16.

            I see no anomaly here. You must know that there is such a thing as a test of reasonableness.

          • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

            Laws are written in unambiguous language world over go and check with any constitutional lawyer. Any law which is capable of more than one interpretation is not worth the ink it was written in.

            What about the definition of adulthood which every pervert can take advantage of ? You are not being honest here .

          • Bigzy

            You do not have to worry about my honesty. My goal is the protection of our children and it should also be yours. I am of the view that the subsections of 7 should have been simplified by being merged into one with the simple provision of age 18. But it is what it is and being verbose does not necessarily make it wrong.

            The constitution provides for the age of adulthood. Therefore, instead of dwelling on emotions, present your argument with details, which are clear and understandable to all.

          • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

            Is it not absolutely right that any married child is deemed to be an adult in the eyes of the Sharia ? What are you up and how do you “protect” children who get married off by 11 years in the Sharia north ?

          • Bigzy

            The Sharia North will still marry off children at 11 or younger, irrespective of what the constitution says. They are aleady equating the Sharia law to our constitution. This Bill is not a panacea for all our ills. But you have raised an important point about he future of Nigeria as a unified entity.

          • Jaey Myobb

            I think you meant to say, the future of Nigeria as a divided entity

          • Bigzy

            You are right. I can’t believe I wrote that 2 years ago. I am an ardent Biafran.

          • diaz

            @tawandaincommunicado:disqus

            Section 7 of the Bill states that:

            ‎(1) A person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty
            of an offence called defilement.

            (2) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged
            eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment
            for life.

            (3) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child
            between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to
            imprisonment for life.

            ‎(4) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child
            between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction
            to imprisonment for life.

          • Bigzy

            Without any commentary, I fail to see what this was meant to achieve.

          • Jaey Myobb

            What about he time span between the 11th year and the 12th year of the time span between the 15th and the 16th year. Obviously, what the person was trying to point out was that, a pedophile could always take advantage to this span and this unclear, somewhat ambiguous law.

          • Bigzy

            If you take this to its logical conclusion you are only ever 11 for a seconds, after which you are 11 +. You are still said to be 11 until your turn 12 and the process repeats itself.

      • ikemefuna

        @tawandaincommunicado:disqus

        There has always been RAPE LAW before 1950 in Nigeria. It covers all ages;
        from one day baby to 200 years woman. So, i don’t know what Femi Falana is
        talking about O! Maybe Femi Falana too went to Provincial School in Katsina.
        In that case: FEMI FALANA: SHOW YOUR WASC/CAMBRIDGE CERTIFICATE.

        • TAWANDA INCOMMUNICADO

          Aboki stop being smart !

    • abims

      @Bigzy:disqus

      Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana are OLODO RAPATA

      You people don’t hear word. I have been telling you something. Last month when
      this topic came out here in Premium Times, i told you to forget the nonsense that
      Wole Soyinka and Femi Falana were saying. Both of them don’t read before they
      talk. They are OLODO RAPATA.

      • Bigzy

        It is always better to forge ahead with a consensus of the concerned.

  • No nonsense

    FOR HIS GROSS ILLITERACY, I THINK THE NORWAY PEOPLE

    SHOULD SEIZE NOBEL LAUREL THEY GAVE TO WOLE SOYINKA.

    • diaz

      @the_adviser:disqus

      Section 7 of the Bill states that:

      ‎(1) A person who commits an act which causes penetration with a child is guilty

      of an offence called defilement.

      (2) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged
      eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment
      for life.

      (3) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child
      between the age of twelve and fifteen years is liable upon conviction to
      imprisonment for life.

      ‎(4) A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child
      between the age of sixteen and eighteen years is liable upon conviction
      to imprisonment for life.

  • the_adviser

    If the age of consent is reduced from 18 to 11 if married, Soyinka’s observation is still valid. A teenager has raging hormones and will experiment law or no law. Sixteen should be the norm for age of consent.

    • Bigzy

      Have you read the same article as the rest of us?

      • the_adviser

        Paragraph 8, says the committee on judiciary and legal matters amended the age of consent from 18 to 11 when the bill went for 2nd reading, hence the bill was subverted.

    • Jaey Myobb

      I feel like some Nigerians are just too ignorant. Do you know what “raging hormones” means? It does not necessarily have to do with sex. If it did, women who are menstruating or/ and pregnant women who have “raging hormones” also would not be able to control themselves and they too would “experiment” with whomever. Smh. Raging hormones simply means that their hormones are everywhere and so, they have ups and downs, they have mood swings, they start to see themselves as different from the opposite sex or notice the differences in the opposite sex e.t.c.

  • aisha married buhari@9

    When Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima justified marriage of underage Children to much Older men, the entire country went overboard and labeled him a paedophile.
    I’m sure not many know that General Muhammadu Buhari is also a strong believer of the Sharia system and in the same vain, a strong believer of marrying out children to much older men.

    Some will say this is a non issue, but its good we know in totality the people we are placing our affairs in their hands.

    A research says that Aisha Buhari is 35 years old and got married to General Muhamadu Buhari in the year 1989 after divorcing his first wife for allegedly collecting welfare money from Babagida while he was in Prison.

    Aisha Buhari was born in 1979, which means in 1989 she was barely 9/10 years old when she was married of to our dear general.

    Their marriage is Blessed with 5 children and grand children. If at 35 she has grand children, I can only but ask: AT WHAT AGE WAS SHE WHEN GMB STARTED HAVING CARNAL KNOWLEDGE OF HER, JUDGING FROM THE AGE OF THEIR FIRST CHILD, MRS AISHA BUHARI WOULD HAVE BEEN NOTHING MORE THAN 12 YEARS OLD WHEN GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI GOT HER PREGNANT.

    I wouldn’t want an army general on my 12 year old daughter though!!!!

    • james t. odion.

      @AMB@9

      Very simple. That means Muhammadu Buhari is to go to life imprisonment. Simple!

      •…………….Section 7 (2): A person who commits an offence of defilement with a child aged
      eleven years or less shall upon conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for life.

      • uduakomiri

        Even if what you are saying is true, as per when Buhari married, no law enacted by the national assembly or any democratic government applies retrospectively. Mumu!

    • factfinder2015

      Please, dont tell blatant lies the woman is 44, i will respect you if you just say your beef with buhari but please dont make things like this up, respect any family and thier chilldren from such alegations

  • Adekunle

    Eighteen years ke?….Come and see these 13-16 yrs calabar girls in the school am serving , they are super hot, fantastic and energetic. They even teach you styles you don’t know. Abeg make dem no spoil show for my area ooo

    • OnyeAbia

      you are a pedophile and should be locked up for life.

    • emmanuel

      Your children will pay for it. They will only realise they are pregnant when their pregnancies would have exceeded four months. Barawo.

  • uduakomiri

    There is a lot of confusion in our laws. The truth is that, many of our laws are so poorly drafted they are simply meaningless. At worse, these NASS legislations are just so simplistic they are not fit for purpose. I wonder what is the point of the Sub Sections in Section 7? Again, How do you figure out a law that first lists defences,( in this case Section 5 unless it is a subsection incorrectly published as a whole section). The practice is normally to lay out the offences in sections, then outline in specific sections, subsections, and paragraphs which sections/subsections/paragraphs are to be read together to give effect to the law, or a defence. Legislations require expertise, it is like a chess game, so the drafter of a statue tend to be made up of jurists, lawyers, experienced clerks, document drafters, and secretaries.
    Importantly, these experts assist the NASS by going through the bill at the initial stages to fine tune it by looking at the purpose of the bill, or what the call ‘mischief the law wishes to fill’ then they also look at already existing laws/statues to be sure the bill will not simply be repeating an existing law, or whether if the bill is passed, an already existing law requires some amendments, repealed, or for both to be read together.
    Again the NASS and its experts at the reading states of the bill (that is deliberation/debate stages) will look at the area the bill area activity the bill is intended, the purpose, and in fact almost every aspect of the bill to understand the ‘mischief’ being targeted, and then look at what the bill stipulates as an offence or series of offences, and possible defences, and then build this into the law.
    This is where the expertise of the support staff at NASS, and ministry of justice come in handy. They look at all the issues, the unlawful act, he likely defence, what should and should not be considered a reasonable act or otherwise, and match the kind of defence that are considered reasonable to such acts. Now having understood all the issues, the bill is then fine tuned, but the law is made to sound complex, and ambiguous. The reason for this, is to make sure that the law is so narrow that it becomes easy to get around it, or make it so comprehensive that it becomes almost impossible to implement it. So in a way the law doesn’t give its ‘statutory meaning’ this is to give the judiciary substantial ‘space’ to interpret the law to meet the intention of the national assembly.
    From the way this law was passed at the last minute, it was obvious that it was a poorly crafted bill, the NASS knew it, again given the sensitive social, political and religious nature of the bill, the NASS had no interest in allowing the bill other than as a token, so this bill was purposely rendered ‘enforceable’ because the likely culprits are the very people who passed it.
    To be honest, this law is well intentioned but poorly crafted. It ought to be returned to the house and redrafted

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  • Omotolaaraujo

    If Chris Anyanwu wrote that garbage, she should not be drafting legislation. Seriously! Get a clue!

  • Kingston Hawke

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but what it sounds like is that you get life in jail if you have sex with anyone who isn’t at least 12 (the age when we’ve most started puberty). That sounds exactly like what the law should be everywhere. This idea that a 17 year old’s life is being ruined by having sex is nonsense. There’s no inherent harm in having sex with a 17 year old. Now you probably shouldn’t do it depending on how old you are because it’s definitely gross. But we shouldn’t jail people for doing gross things. Only things we can prove are significantly harmful.