As the 21st World Day Against the Death Penalty is marked around the world today, two human rights groups, Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), and The Inclusion Project (TIP), have called for an official moratorium and the abolition of the death penalty in Nigeria.
October 10 of every year is marked as World Day Against the Death Penalty, a day set aside every year to advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. The theme for the 2023 edition is, “The death penalty: an irreversible torture,” aimed at raising awareness of the inhuman living conditions of people sentenced to death and their physical and psychological sufferings that amount to torture.
HURILAWS and TIP in a joint statement signed by Collins Okeke on behalf of HURILAWS and Pamela Okoroigwe (TIP), noted that the 1999 Constitution guaranteed the right to life and respect for the dignity of the human person, including the right not to be subjected to torture, but the criminal justice system does otherwise.
The statement noted that it was the duty of the judge while delivering the death penalty under the country’s legal system to pronounce a death sentence and the manner in which the sentence would be carried out against anyone found guilty of the offence.
The statement added that the law also compels the governor to execute the sentence or order its commutation to life in prison, another prison term, or a pardon at the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy.
“In practice, since May 29, 1999, most governors have failed, refused, or neglected to sign warrants of execution. The result is that death sentences are handed down by the courts and are not carried out. According to data made available by the Nigerian Correctional Service, 3,298 persons are known to be under the sentence of death in Nigeria as of April 2023.
“For many of these death row prisoners, conditions are traumatic, harsh, and dehumanising. Most death row cells are 7 by 8 feet, shared by three to five people, the cells are dark and with hardly any ventilation. Prisoners use buckets as toilets and sleep on the bare floor.
“The average period spent on death row by prison inmates in Nigeria is between 10-15 years. Many death row prisoners have developed mental illness during their long stay in prison and on death row.
“Several courts in Nigeria have held that a convict on death row is entitled to the right to dignity of the human person and so should not be subjected to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment arising from a prolonged delay in executing him.”