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THE CHALLENGES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY IN A RELIGIOUS NIGERIAN NATION
1.1 The Background of the Study
It has remained a paradox that Nigeria, a highly religious country, cannot deny in its historical records, the challenges of juvenile delinquency. Nigeria is a great nation with great fortunes and great opportunities. Although the subject of juvenile delinquency is an age long problem, it seems that the juvenile delinquency of the past cannot be evaluated with that of the present era in Nigeria. The challenges have become a cankerworm that has transmitted from juvenile delinquency to a violent crime which has subjected the country to a security threat and all sorts of crisis. The persistent increase in the rate of juvenile crimes in Nigeria and the abysmal failure by the diverse religious institutes to curb this problem have constituted a serious barrier to the country’s economic development since many “young ones who epitomizes the nation’s future” (Ugwuoke, 2010,p.23) are enmeshed in moral decadence. Juvenile delinquency is therefore viewed as a major impediment to socio-economic progress and a significant threat to national security.
The situation must however be understood against the backdrop of the flaws in fostering a genuine ethical cum religious teachings on the young ones by the diverse religious institutions that scattered across the country. Consequently, the researcher insisted on the need of revisiting the proper functions and the roles of religion by different religious institution in Nigeria which stands to curb the challenges of this delinquency. Hence, Omoregbe (2010) noted that “ethical teachings generate certain moral convictions and outlook which in turn influence and guide people’s conduct along certain directions.”(p.12) Obviously, unless something is done to roll back the wave of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria, the prospect of a better, safer and more prosperous society emerging in the country will remain elusive.
Juvenile delinquency has caused much concern in recent time not only because of its rising rate of occurrence, but due to its accompanying implications. Although, most juvenile misconducts are usually considered less harmful than crimes but such conducts easily led to crimes when remedial measures was not applied urgently. Dambazau (2007) enumerated major causes of juvenile delinquency to include “peer pressure, parental neglect, parental imitation, genetic or biological factor, poor education and lack of opportunities, media violence, poverty, child abuse and other similar causes of adult criminal behavior.”(p.339) These causes of delinquency are in line with Nolen-Hoekseme (2001) who also observed that “These criminal behaviours committed by minors are collectively referred to as juvenile delinquency.”
The challenges of these delinquencies in Nigeria have thus become an academic concern owing to the damages suffered by its perpetrators. The paramount of the problem according to (Redl and Wineman ,1997,p.286) is that these young ones “often do not see anything wrong in what they do.” The challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria cannot be effectively discussed without highlighting the probable social costs of this endemic disease to Nigerian nation. Most uncurbed delinquencies has in recent times, developed into violent crimes which the evidence is manifested in the activities of bombing by the boko haram sect and other violent groups in Nigeria. These violent crimes as noted by Brown (1996) are “those crimes that involve physical injury, destruction of property and socio-psychological costs of trauma”. These crimes specifically include rape, assaults, armed robbery, arson murder, thuggery and political assassinations, bombing and kidnapping.
Therefore, a thorough search on the solution to the challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria has called for re-awakening of the roles of religion whose major functions is appealing to the conscience of the juveniles through ethical teachings and building of moral behaviour. It is therefore, worthy of note that children form the bedrock of any society. Adequate protection of this young segment of population is thus a sine qua non for development albeit national security of modern nation states. A nation with high religious pluralism ought to produce less delinquents children consequent upon the fact that religion encompasses sound religious indoctrination and ethical teachings which enthrones moral uprightness in the young ones. Therefore Religions’ role which also include to restores ethical values and rids the society of social vices such as juvenile delinquency and many other forms of evil must be retraced.
1.2 The Statement of the Problem
The challenges 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. However, a juvenile delinquent is one who indulges in antisocial behaviour, some of which could be regarded as crime if committed by an adult. The antisocial behaviour often associated with the juvenile delinquents’ include; truancy, cheating, weapon carrying, petty stealing, school drop outs, indecent dressing, cultism, watching of pornographic movies and magazines, small scale pilfering, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, insubordination, sagging, vandalism etc. This act which is juvenile misbehaviour have metamorphosed today to juvenile or youthful exuberance which Nigeria is manifested in such acts as students demonstration, riots, gambling, sports hooliganism, bombing and kidnapping, and so on. Cohen (1965) noted that “these young people usually have related problems; some of them are products of broken homes.”(p.74) The issue of juvenile delinquency is one of the major concerns to families, churches, neighbourhood, schools, law enforcement agencies and the society at large. Children and young person whom the law defines as juveniles are increasingly being introduced and used in serious crimes.
The causative factors of this problem according to Dambazzau (2007) are “peer pressure, parental neglect, parental imitation, genetic or biological factor, poor education, lack of opportunities, media violence, poverty, divorce, child abuse and other similar causes of adult criminal behavior.” The family is under distress because of the ongoing issue. The school system and other socialization institutions are seriously losing the capabilities to inculcate right morals and values in the young ones. Economic pursuits have taken the centre stage that brought about parental neglect. School teachers engage in other transactions at the expense of their profession just to make ends meet. The emergence of ICT with all its benefits, equally impact negatively in these young ones. There are morally debased information items that are posted daily on the internet and these young ones have access to such devastating items of information without restrictions. All these developments tend to increase the emergence of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria and globe.
Many roles have been played by different scholars through different medium and means to put an end to this problem but the fact remains that, there is a global increase of juvenile delinquencies, despite the fundamental efforts put in place by nations of the world and Nigeria as a country to fight this unhealthy phenomenon. The situation must however be understood against the backdrop of the deviation of focus in fostering a genuine ethical cum religious teachings on the young ones by the diverse religious institute that scattered across the country.
The most bothering questions that this research tried to deal with are the questions about whether the challenges of juvenile delinquency is peculiar to Nigeria as a country and the extent in which other scholars have gone in tackling of this national problem. Also it become burdensome why must there be high rate of this delinquency amidst many religious institutions in Nigeria and why is the role of ethics in dealing with this delinquency problem being relegated. It also seeks to prove whether religion and ethical principles can provide a possible solution to ameliorate this juvenile delinquency. What actually is the subject of juvenile crime and what popular theories including modernization surround it.
In whichever way the question above are answered or thought of, it should be borne in mind that the delinquent of today would certainly become the criminal of tomorrow if something is not done urgently. There is no gainsaying the fact that the future of any nation depends on the quality of her young ones who are the future leaders of such nation. This is why no nation will play with the development of these young ones. Hence, children form the bedrock of any society.
In consideration of the foregoing problems, this study wishes to provide a lasting solution in attacking the transition from juvenile to adult delinquency from its roots by providing a platform of positive action through the ethical point of view cum Christian religion practices in the prevention of such a transition.
1.3 Aim of the Study
The aim of this research is to provide a lasting solution to the challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria especially when the country is religiously increasing day by day. Also, there is the need to draw the attention of different religion in Nigeria on their places of loop holes. The aim is also to sift out some areas or roles of religion which seems untouched or unpracticed for the solution of curbing juvenile delinquency and to open a new research area for the upcoming researchers in religion department and beyond who thought that research of this kind could only be done in criminology, social work and sociology alone.
Finally, the researcher aimed at using religion as a veritable tool in solving the problem of crime in Nigeria. Also to prove that amidst most of the theoretical framework provided by other social institutions, that religion institution remained the most outstanding institution left for the provision of solution to the problem of man and the society at large.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This research work will be significant in the following ways;
It will serve as a sigh of a relief to the Nigerian nation in putting a stop to the security threats in the country. It will provide a good leaders of tomorrow in the society because if a child is trained in a good way to follow, he/she will not leave it when grows. It will open the eyes of Nigerians to the security hidden tips of religion in sanitizing of a nation. It will also be an eye opener to the chaotic families who ended up in producing delinquents to the nation to revisit their ancient land mark where they have fallen apart. It will help in the reduction of violent crimes which has threatened the peace of Nigerian nation for long, as evidenced in the activities of Boko Haram. It will also challenge different religions institutions in Nigeria who have deviated from the core roles and functions of religion in a nation. It will help in producing better Nigerian that will always obey the dictates of their conscience which was religiously and ethically nurtured from good parents’ right from childhood.
1.6 Scope of Study
The scope of coverage on this work is anchored on the following;
Geographically, the Federal Republic of Nigeria covers an area of about 923,768 square kilometers in size, consisting 36 states and a Federal Territory (FCT). Structurally, the six geographical zones that make up the country were covered. It was possible because of some scholarly analyses who have earlier worked on the structure of Nigeria. The research work was restricted to Nigeria sequel to the topic which is the challenges of juvenile delinquency in a highly religious Nigerian nation. No specific area of the country was targeted, all the areas of the country was handled wholly to avoid missing the core concept of the research hence the research topic centered on Nigerian nation. The three major Religions in Nigeria (Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion) were covered but Christianity was given a specific attention to avoid losing of focus. The work also covered only the silent areas of different religious institute in Nigeria, especially the preaching of sound messages and living a practical life style.
The work however centres on the young people under the ages of eighteen years alone as juveniles and minimally touched crimes in adulthood which transmitted from juvenile stage. The research ended up with recommendation by the researcher where solutions were provided or how to tackle the issues handled in the research work. The scope of this work therefore was pegged through the spectrum of the core roles and functions of religions as the remaining solution to the challenges of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria.
1.6 Research Methodology
In the course of this research, the researcher embarked on qualitative research method. Qualitative research aims to gather an in-depth understanding of the concept and reasons that governs such idea. It produces information through exploration only on the particular cases studied. This involves phenomenological method. It also includes; historical, comparative and analytical approaches in using the data collected.
The researcher used a good deal of literature in this regard, information were collated from oral interviews and academic theses as the primary sources while secondary source involves text books, journals, magazines, and News papers. Materials were also gotten from the internets for the completion of this research.
1.7 Definition of Terms
It was the Latin Theologian Cicero who wrote to say that the beginning of any intelligible debate starts with the definition of terms. It was also necessary to define few terms that would often be used in this research work. Since some of these terms already had accepted scholarly definitions, the researcher therefore borrowed from these authoritative scholars. It is therefore against this backdrop that research work intends to examine the key words of this topic which include;
Juvenile: According to Longman dictionary of contemporary English (2001) is “connected with young people who are not yet adults.”(p.768) While delinquency refer to criminal activities of young people. In the same vain Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary defined delinquency “as conduct that is out of accord with accepted behavior or the law”
Juvenile Delinquency: Juvenile delinquency as it was written in Longman dictionary of contemporary English (2001,p.768) is “a child or young people who behaves in a criminal way.” Ugwuoke (2010, p. 119) defined juvenile delinquency as “one who indulges in antisocial behavior, some of which could be regarded as crime if committed by an adult.” In agreement with Ugwuoke, Carter and Hill (1979) defined Juvenile delinquency as “offences committed by young people – theft, smuggling, prostitution, drug trafficking, robbery, raping, violence etc.” Also Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (1989) asserted that Juvenile delinquency is “the offences committed by people below the ages of legal responsibility.” In Nigeria therefore, it may also be referred to as either violent or non-violent crime committed by people who are usually under the age of eighteen.
Juvenile Offender : Ugwuoke (2010,) noted that “A young person who violates the provisions of the criminal law is called a juvenile offender.” (p.164)
Young Person: According to Nwadialo (1985) “A young person is a person who has attained the age of fourteen years but is under the age of seventeen years, any person who has reached the age of seventeen years or older is an adult”. In Nigeria however, the political age of adulthood starts at eighteen years.
Youth: According to Umedum (2000),
A youth is someone between the ages of fourteen and forty with the following characteristics: physical growth and development, high mental alertness, outgoing, care for independence and very inquisitive about the facts of life, its meaning and purpose.(p.6)
Ononogbu (2008) noted that
Youth applies to the young, energetic and adventurous members of the society, who are no longer children and not wholly dependent on their parents. This group of people is characteristically bold, fearless and optimistic. In contrast, however, they are also gullible because of the tendency to please and get approval from others. These persons are largely those within the ages of 14-30 years who have not yet taken on adult responsibilities like raising and catering for a family on their own. p.20
Religion: Religion is always a difficult subject from whatever angle you try to examine i t. Ugwu (1999) stated that;
Scholars find it difficult to come up with a definition of religion that would include every religion, past and present. Many believe that the idea of supernatural is universal to religion and shall therefore be a part of its definition. Others reject this view point saying that religion may be a private set of beliefs of only one person or it may be a shared set of beliefs of many. p.2
However religion shall be defined contextually.
According to Ugwu (2002), “Religion can be defined as faith and practice involving the relationship between mankind and what is regarded as sacred.”(p.2) He also explains that religion generally involves the beliefs in the supernatural and a code of ethical behavior. Man must be involved to practice and keep this faith and dictate what is sacred and profane. In the same vein, Okwueze (2003) defined religion “as a regulated pattern of life of a people in which experience, beliefs and knowledge are reflected in man’s conception of himself in relation to others, his social world, the physical as well as the metaphysical world.”(p.3) Durkheim (1963) opined that “religion is altogether a social phenomenon” and “religious beliefs are those which carry with them social obligations.” It is truism that religious beliefs goes with social obligations. The above scholar’s opinion on religion concurs with the subject of this work. Hence, each religion has its own ethics which enables the individuals who make up the society to behave themselves in accordance with the accepted norms of the society to allow order and peace to reign supreme in the society.