Lobbying is the attempt to influence the lawmakers or the government by individuals or interest groups so that it makes decisions in favor of them (Okechukwu & Agbodike, 2016). The lobbying strategy is mainly used to persuade the government directly or through legislators. Currently, in the federal republic of Nigeria, many people are lobbying for the consent age to be increased from 11 years to 16. This action was sparked by contradicting laws in the Nigerian constitution on Children Act (Abdulmalik, Olayiwola, Docrat, Lund, Chisholm & Gureje, 2019).
Goals of the lobbying strategy
The principal aim of the lobbying to increase the age of consent is to seek constitutional clarification on the laws regarding marriage and consent age in Nigeria. The marriage law stipulates that one should not engage in contractual marriage before the age of 18 years. On the other hand, a child under the age of 11 years is prohibited from participating in any sexual activity. Commitment to the above crimes would earn one a life sentence.
On the contrary, Nigeria’s 1999 constitution says that any woman who is married shall be regarded to be of full age (Obiora,2016). Therefore, according to Nigeria’s 1999 law, a man can marry a girl of say, age 12, and still walk free, yet the child is abused both physically and emotionally. According to Obiora, such reasons are why the lobbyists want the constitution to be clear and changed to set the consent age at 16 years (2016).
Another goal for the lobbyists to champion for a higher age for consent is so that the government can take care of the vulnerable nature of the young people. A child under the age of 16 cannot make an informed decision on a sexual relationship with an adult in this case. The senior partner will make a significant decision, and eventually leading to the minor being exploited. They want the government to impose relevant children’s rights. Children should be free from experiencing such traumatic sexual violations. Nevertheless, these rights will bear fruits only if all the states will adopt them in Nigeria.
The third goal of this petition is to curb the high population of Nigerian women who get married before the age of 18. Statistics show that 44% of women in Nigeria are married by the time they reach 18 (Fakunmoju & Rasool, 2018). This crisis harms the country’s economy. Such children are deprived of their right to have enough satisfying education as well as enough time to mature and be able to manage marriage life with ease.
The advocacy for a higher age of consent in Nigeria has drawn attention from different classes of people. Members of the Senate in Nigeria, for instance, will practice inside lobbying. They have direct contact with the lawmakers who are mandated with the constitutional review and change. The Senate can influence legislators directly and give policy proposals for change in the age of consent. This setting is also referred to as direct lobbying (Robinson, Kunnuji, Shawar & Shiffman, 2018).
The public and other interest groups lobbying for the same change as senators will run an outside lobbying setting. These groups will do so through emails, writings, and posting relevant information on the internet. They intend to seek support from the media and the public at large. Members of the public lack direct contact with the legislators and therefore do not have the opportunity to submit proposals for the law to be passed directly. They rely on the support from one another and back up by the media.
Stakeholders, target groups, supporters, allies and enemies
The stakeholders in fighting for increased age of consent are quite a number; the Senate, human rights lawyers, non-governmental organizations, public and other members of the society. The Senate backs it up and furthermore is advocating that people younger than 18 should not be engaged in sexual contact. Human rights lawyers have stated that the law to set consent age at 11 is illegal. Non-governmental organizations have also shown interest in fighting for the rights of the children (Fakunmoju & Rasool, 2018).
The bill to increase the consent age is entirely targeted to the Nigerian government. The public is lobbying to have the lawmakers influenced to accept their plea and review the constitution in favor of the public outcry. The claim is that the government is not doing enough to protect the rights of the children. Reckless laws are exposing young ones to exploitive sexual relations. The children do not have enough mind to make consent decisions on sexual matters, and it is the collective responsibility of the mandated organizations and the public to fight for them.
Many organizations have indicated that children have no capability to fight for their rights. As a result, it is the responsibility of the government to put in place laws that protect the young ones. The public has stood up to fight the abusive nature of children in Nigeria of setting such a low consent age. Netizens from different countries have shown interest and have participated in voting for a bill to increase the age to at least 16 years (Agbawodikeizu, Ekoh, Ebue, Ajibo, Atama & Okoye, 2019).
The bill to have the consent age increased has indeed gained interest from many people all over the world. The majority of those following are supporting it. Many people who have read the law claim that the contradiction between marriage age and consent age is a point of correction. Parents, for instance, claim that their children are protected from defilement and rape under the age of 18. However, they are not protected from being married at age 11 and even engaging in sexual activities.
The legislators and the committee on judiciary and legal matters are against the bill. They have rubbished the claims, saying that no one took the time to read and understand the law clearly. They claim that they did not link adulthood with marital status, and the current law ought not to be changed. They are among the very few enemies of the bill to increase the age of consent in the country.
Sub goals and priorities
There are several priorities which the lobby groups are advocating for in matters of increasing the consent age in Nigeria. First, they want their children freed from sexual misuse and exploitation by culprits. Parents are not convinced of their children’s safety under the current laws, as far as sexual relationships are concerned. They want tight laws put in place. Laws which will address children’s rights effectively and with clarity.
Secondly, Nigerians and the entire society is not pleased with the rights of women violated. In a society where almost every country is fighting to empower women, sexual violations are among the challenges the girlchild faces day in day out. The consent age mainly affects females. They are likely to succumb to underage marriage, and their offenders may walk free under the protection of the law. The lobbyists seek to address this issue and empower the girls. They aim to increase women’s self-esteem and give them a friendly environment to nature their ambitions.
Thirdly, allowing age consent at 11 increases the chances of teenage pregnancies. It provokes a high spread of sexually transmitted infections among other reproductive health diseases. This is because, at such a young age, children lack moral knowledge to decide how to practice safe sex. The lobbyists, therefore, want to curb this behavior and prevent this danger from innocent children. They want to secure enough time for the children to grow physically and mentally. Enough time for the children to grow psychologically is essential before they engage in sexual activities.
For a society to develop, it must consider the life of future generations. The current generation is the one to determine the life of future generations. The current society is mandated to give moral support to the minor. Society is responsible for educating the children on what is good and bad, as well as the right time to engage in adult activities. The drive for consent age change in Nigeria is motivated by the wish to give children ample time to pursue their dreams.
Finally, the lobbyists are seeking to influence the government to include public participation before they amend bills into law. Putting up a law that contradicts the culture of society is ridiculous. The public aims to have the moral culture of the society respected. They do not want to lose the moral sense of their children in the name of modernization, which in this case, is immoral and against their culture. They target to have full participation in making laws concerning their children.
Actions regarding strategy
The lobbyists may choose several ways to action towards influencing the government to change the law. First, they may decide on building alliances. An alliance geared to attracting more supports and influencing the government at the same time. This alliance would be a better and convenient way to air out their grievances to the government. The bigger the alliance, the more the government is likely to listen to them. An alliance sets a good platform to lobby.
Secondly, they can choose to hold protests and peaceful demonstrations. This can attract attention from many people within a short time. It is a stern way to show the government how serious the issue is. However, protests should be used to a government that is too reluctant to listen to its people. The public may also insert pressure on the government through social media platforms and inviting the media for back up. Stressing the government throughout the same issue over time would eventually bear fruits.
Finally, the lobbyists can also action by sponsoring campaigns to address their discomforts. Offering moral support and advice to the active lobbyists as well as serving them with more ideas and relevant reasons why the age of consent should be increased is essential. Actions like sponsoring constituents to act as lobbyists are effective. They may also choose to use interested senators or legislators as lobbyists to represent them. By doing such, the chosen leaders who are in direct contact with the government will participate in the legislation meetings and influence the other government officials to change the law in favor of the public.
Robinson, R. S., Kunnuji, M., Shawar, Y. R., & Shiffman, J. (2018). Prioritising sexuality education in Mississippi and Nigeria: the importance of local actors, policy windows and creative strategy. Global public health, 13(12), 1807-1819.
Okechukwu, E. O., & Agbodike, F. C. (2016). Strategy for Women Development in Anambra State, Nigeria: Co-Operative Societies’ Option. Review of Public Administration and Management, 400(3786), 1-10.
Abdulmalik, J., Olayiwola, S., Docrat, S., Lund, C., Chisholm, D., & Gureje, O. (2019). Sustainable financing mechanisms for strengthening mental health systems in Nigeria. International journal of mental health systems, 13(1), 38.
Agbawodikeizu, P. U., Ekoh, P. C., Ebue, M. E., Ajibo, H. T., Atama, C. S., & Okoye, U. O. (2019). Knowledge of what constitutes gender-based violence among adult residents of Igbo-Eze North LGA, Enugu State, Nigeria and practice implications for social workers. Journal of Social Work in Developing Societies, 1(2).
Fakunmoju, S. B., & Rasool, S. (2018). Exposure to Violence and Beliefs About Violence Against Women Among Adolescents in Nigeria and South Africa. SAGE Open, 8(4), 2158244018817591.
Obiora, L. A. (2016). Probing the Parameters of Gender, Power, and Democracy in Nigeria. In Gender and Power (pp. 64-81). Palgrave Macmillan, London.