As the world marks the World Day Against the Use of the Death Penalty, some notable human rights organizations on Monday canvassed for the abolition of the death penalty in the nation’s constitution
In a press release signed by Pamela Okoroigwe and Collins Okeke, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) and The Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS) called on the Nigerian government to respect the sanctity of life by taking immediate steps to abolish the death penalty and replace same with jail terms or life imprisonment. The group also called on the government to provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities needed to cater to the welfare of death row prisoners; arguing that Imposing the death sentence on offenders has not reduced violent crimes but has rather exposed the State to the high possibility of convicting and executing innocent persons.
According to the group “ The imposition of death sentence and its execution involves processes that constitute torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In nearly all jurisdictions of the common law world, the courts have found that the use of the death penalty and its method of execution always amount to torture”
“Our findings revealed that death row prisoners are subjected to two distinct punishments: the death sentence itself and the prolonged years of living in inhumane conditions that include poor health care, overcrowding, poor feeding, and poor medical attention. Prisoners on death row live in a state of constant uncertainty over their possible date of execution. For some death-row prisoners, the anxiety results in a sharp deterioration in their mental and emotional well-being”
The group cited the case of Olatunji Olaide, who was exonerated by the Court of Appeal in 2018 after spending 24 years on death row. Olatunji died shortly after his release from prison due to his terrible ill health and untreated eye condition from prolonged detention; and the case of Samuel Adebayo (53) who was exonerated in February 2022 after 15 years on death row, for an offense he didn’t commit.
Nigeria is one of the countries that still retain the use of capital punishment in its criminal law and penal code. Death penalty sentences are imposed for the crime of armed robbery, murder, rape, terrorism-related offenses, treason, and kidnapping while adultery, blasphemy, and homosexuality also carry the death penalty in the northern region where Sharia law applies.
At least 2719 people are currently on death row in 12 correctional facilities across the country. The last execution of death row prisoners in Nigeria was in 2016 but in 2021, Nigeria’s Interior Minister, came under heavy backlash when he reportedly recommended the execution of death row inmates as a form of decongesting the correctional facilities
According to Nigerian human rights groups, death row inmates in Nigerian correctional facilities are held under inhuman and degrading conditions. Many are held in tiny, dark, and filthy cells, with almost no ventilation, and some spend their time in solitary cells. They also lack adequate food and medical care.