The recent Ebeano supermarket fire was a shocker, especially considering the status of the perpetrator from the CCTV which had since gone viral.
Since the incident, a heated debate has risen over the fate of the little girl seen in the video.
However, the long and short is no. A minor cannot be prosecuted under the penal code. But a minor can be tried in a special juvenile court.
Undoubtedly, the razing of the Ebeano supermarket will raise a series of questions in the next couple of months. But the most important part is the involvement of a minor in the crime.
Under the Nigerian Criminal Legal System, a child below seven is incapable of committing an offence. On the other hand, a child of seven years but below 12 years is capable of committing an offence; only when it is established that the child understood the consequences of his/ her action.
This law is in place to protect our children who may not appreciate the implication of their actions. Also, the criminal system is based on mens rea and actus reus – meaning (intention to commit a crime and actual commission of the crime). Thus, a child under seven enjoys an irrefutable presumption that he/she does not have the intention to commit a crime; even if his/ her actions amount to a crime, if committed by an adult.
But for a child under 12, the presumption is rebuttable and once established that the child understood that his/ her actions amounted to a crime; which implies the presence of an intention to commit the crime, the child could be held liable for the offence.
Note that there is a specific procedure for the trial of children which is different from that of adults.
We have juvenile courts and it has its own rules.
Section 452 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 provides to the effect that where a minor is a suspect (in relation to a crime); the Child Rights Act 2003 shall be applicable.
“Section 204 and 205 of the Child Rights Act, 2003 regulates the form and manner at which child judicial processes should be conducted. A child investigation and trial shall at all times protect the privacy of such child.’’
However, the Police has already started their unprofessionalism by releasing the footage of the interrogation of the little girl. Why are policemen irredeemably irresponsible? Their newfound love for cameras is becoming irritating, to be frank.
This matter is extremely complicated already. As it stands, the two adults who accompanied the minor to Ebeano supermarket should be the main subject of investigation. Was the child directed by them or not?
More importantly, why was no one monitoring the CCTV camera in that supermarket? What type of safety is in that place? These and many more questions must be trashed out.
Indeed, this case will open new frontier for our jurisprudence.