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1000 people are awaiting the hangman in Nigeria’s prisons

By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
John Oziegbe is a senior partner with Partnership for Justice. In this encounter, he answers questions on the situation of human rights in Nigeria and the justice system generally. Excerpt.

How would you rate the human rights situation in Nigeria.

The greatest area of human rights abuse is continuous detention of persons for years in prisons without trial. The nation’s prisons are continuously over congested because of the upsurge of awaiting trial persons. Over 60% of prisoners are awaiting trial.

ONOVO, Police IG
ONOVO, Police IG

How would you assess the Nigeria Police in this regards?

The police and other law enforcement agencies kill innocent people on the streets and go scot free.

The rate of extra judicial killings have increased beyond our imaginations even in a civil regime. Any criminal justice reform that has failed to address these fundamental problems undermines citizens’ constitutional rights to innocence until proven guilty.

This is sad and unfortunate for the present regime that propagates the strict adherence to the rule of law. The incident of torture, inhuman and degrading punishment some Nigerians are subjected at police stations and other detention centres are better imagined than experienced.

No regime permits the use of torture as a means of soliciting information or otherwise from suspected criminals. The right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment is non derogable.

This means that at no time whatsoever are states or its agencies allowed to treat  persons in such unacceptable manner.

Would you say the  people on death row are receiving fair treatment?

An estimated 1000 people crowd the nation’s death rows-a record number. Some have gone mentally ill while waiting for the hang man. Some have been affected with various diseases that are life threatening. It is obvious that executions lag behind death sentences in Nigeria and the death-row population keeps growing.

We must address this issue and take a stance on whether to abolish death penalty for certain crimes or for some crimes or adopt an official moratorium on executions.

What advice do you have for government on the issues you have raised?

Considering the spate of killings across the country, it is only pertinent that the federal government as a matter of urgency to set up independent judicial inquiries to check the increasing rate of extra judicial killings.

It is also crucial for the Federal Government and civil society organizations to design programmes focused on highlighting the needs to end the spate of extra-judicial killings and to bring perpetrators to justice.

This will not only help strengthen judicial institutions but public perception of the justice system.


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