The law governing the admissibility of evidence is found in the Nigerian law of Evidence[1]. Issues relating to competence and compellability of child evidence have been accorded much attention by the judiciary in making sure that children in given evidence in court are not misled. The idea of competency and compellability as it relates to the evidence of children allows the court to ensure that a child gives rational answers to questions put to him.

At common law, it is not all evidence given in court that may be held admissible. For instance, before a child can give evidence which will be admitted, such child must be a compellable witness. Therefore, a proper attention will be given to the definition of competence and compellability, its nature and principles and the position it occupies in the law of evidence.

It is also pertinent to addressing who a child is in law; the conditions which such child must satisfy before he becomes a competent and compellable witness. Importantly to note is the fact that given of evidence by a child may have some negative effect, and it has been advocated that there should be a systematic way of receiving a child’s evidence with proper consideration of the situation of the child and determination of whether the child is induced by a third party

Also, attention will be paid to the effect of giving evidence in court and why most children may feel reluctant to give evidence in court as well as the issues of risk of hysterical intention, childish imagination and collisions which may be inherent in the evidence of a child in Nigerian courts.





This long essay focuses on competence and compellability of a child to give evidence before Nigerian courts. The meaning, general principles, importance, provisions of the evidence Act would be examined. The essay would also explain a child in law, the testimony of such a child in civil and criminal proceedings as well as the conditions for the admissibility of such evidence. More importantly, the essay examines then effects and defects of wrongfully admitting evidence by a child in court.


The objectives of this study are:

  1. To bring the fore and to explain the procedure and practices of Nigerian courts in relation to the admissibility of child evidence.

b .To notify the masses of the importance and nature of competence and compellability as in relation to child.

  1. To analyze the role and what should be the role of courts in ensuring that the evidence of a child is credible enough to be admitted and the conditions thereof.
  2. To explain as lucidly as possible the application of the Act[2] in relation to the admissibility of child evidence
  3. To recommend possible solutions to the problems attached to the receiving of child evidence.


This long essay explains competency and compellability as regards child evidence as regards child evidence and examines the conditions which a child must satisfy before he or she becomes a competent and or compellable witness in courts of law. This essay focuses mainly on the relevant approaches of the courts as it relates to the competency and compellability of a child and the methods to be adopted.


The scope of this essay is limited to the ambit of its title. Chapter one is on the general introduction which includes background of the study, objectives of the study, focus of study, scope of study, research methodology adopted, and review of related literatures as well as definition of terms having peculiar meaning. Chapter two deals with definitions and principles relating to competence and compellability; the provisions of the Evidence Act and the exceptions to the general rule.

Chapter three explains the evidence of a child, who a child is in law and the conditions for the admissibility of his evidence. Chapter four deals with the implication of uncorroborated evidence of a child, effects of wrongful admission or rejection of a child evidence, the importance of competence and compellability and the negative effects of our court process on the child witness while chapter five concludes the work and gives recommendations to strengthen competency and compellability of child evidence before the Nigerian courts.


The methodology adopted by the researcher to aid him actualize the study consist partly of both primary and secondary sources of law. The primary sources include basically the Evidence Act[3], Children and Young Persons Act[4], and case laws. The secondary sources include textbooks; both foreign and local textbooks, journal, articles and lecture notes on evidence.


The fact that this area of law is not novel cannot be denied as there are sufficiently available texts, journals and learned articles in which opinions have been expressed on almost every aspect of the law in this area in Nigeria. It is not however being suggested that this long essay would be copying the works of others in to this essay, but to find a strong foundation for the present presentations and to examine earlier options. After all, precedents thrive well in law. As a result of this, the Evidence Act[5], the Criminal Procedure Act[6], the Children and Young Persons Act whose provisions will be useful in defining who a child is, is worthy of reference. Other materials to be appraised include the works on law of  Evidence of learned authors like Aguda on Law and Practice relating  to Evidence in Nigeria, Nwadialo Fedelis on Modern Nigerian Law of Evidence, Afe Babalola on Law and practice of Evidence in Nigeria, Christopher Allens on Practical Guide to Evidence, Oji’s  Competence  of Children as witnesses would be a matter of close scrutiny. It is important to add that because of constraint of time and space, not all the various materials source employed in this work are fully reviewed except those that are of direct importance to the subject matter of this work.




The following are the terms that will be used in this research work:

Competence-               The ability to do something well[7]

Compellability-             The ability to use coercion on an individual to do that

which   he ought to do or something that is

necessary   for him[8]

Child-                           A person under the age of fourteen9

Evidence-                      The facts, signs or objects that make you believe that

something is true[10]



Witness-            Person who sees something happen and is able to

describe it to other people[11]


In conclusion, there is a presumption that everybody has the capacity or incompetent to give evidence in court. This presumption is rebuttable where a person is prevented from understanding questions put to him or giving rational answers to those questions by reason of tender age or disease of the body or mind. If a judge is in the opinion that a child is capable of understanding the nature of an oath and the duty of speaking the truth, he must warn himself so as not to judge based on the uncorroborated evidence of an incompetent child.

[1] Act No. 18, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2011

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Cap 22 ,LFN 2004

[5] Ibid.

[6] Cap C41 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria,2004

[7] A.S. Hornby, Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English, 8th edn,(Oxford, Oxford University Press,2010) pg 293

[8] Ibid.

[9] Section 2 Cap 22 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The act also defines young person to mean ‘’ a person who has attained the age of fourteen years  and is under the age of  seventeen years’’

[10] A.S Hornby: op.cit., at p.503

[11]Ibid. at p.1709