By Innocent Anaba

As the world, early in the week marked the World Day Against the Use of the Death Penalty, a non governmental organisation, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, has called on the Federal Government to immediately stop the use of the death penalty, adding that as the country turns 50 years, it should join other democracies of the world to abolish use of the death penalty.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos as part of activities to mark the Day, LEDAP’s National Cordination, Mr Chino Obiagwu, said “the Federal government should immediately pronounce official moratorium on death sentences and executions, while National Assembly and State houses of Assembly start amendment of the federal Criminal Code and states’ Criminal Code Law and Penal Code Law, to replace all provisions for death sentence with life sentence or terms of years of imprisonment.”

The briefing was jointly organised with Nigerian Death Penalty Group, NDEPELG.

Further he said, “we call on governments of Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom among others that have capital provisions for kidnapping to immediately repeal these laws.”

He explained that the World Day against the Death Penalty was set aside for the peoples and governments of the world to revisit informed debate on the death penalty. It is also a day to remember the dangers of the use of the death penalty, to console families of those wrongly executed in the past, and to remind governments of their responsibility to preserve life and not the take life.”

He reminded the Federal and State Governments that the only deterrence to crime is increasing the possibility of apprehending offenders and not in the severity of the punishment, adding that “violent crimes especially armed robbery have remained on the increase since the introduction of death sentence for the offences in early 1970s. On the other hand, drug trafficking reduced considerably in the last decade not at the time it was made a capital offence, but when security agents increased their detection facilities and capacity at the airports, thereby increasing possibilities of apprehending offenders.”

He called on the Federal Government to adequately fund the Nigeria Police by providing them with modern crime fighting equipments and addressing the problem of corruption in the police force. Bloodletting through the use of the death penalty only increases the rate of use of violence in the society, including by criminals.

According to him, “there is in place at the moment, a judicial moratorium against executions as a result of a case pending at the Federal High Court Lagos instituted by LEDAP on behalf of all the over 820 death row prisoners seeking to restrain all the 36 state Governors from signing their execution warrants. Until the case is disposed of, we reminds state Governors of their duty not to undermine the judicial process, and, therefore, should not sign any execution warrant for the killing of any death row inmate.

The call for an official moratorium on death penalty pending when full abolition could be actualised in Nigeria is borne out of the conviction that the Nigerian government cannot continue to ignore the dare need for reform of our criminal justice system. This was aptly captured in the report of the National Study Group on Death Penalty that, ‘A system that must take life must first give justice’.

“We have found during the 13 years of our crusade for abolition of the death penalty in Nigeria and reform of the Nigerian Criminal Justice System, that one of the most difficult problems of death penalty in Nigeria is the credibility of investigation process and evidence used in convicting a person to death which has been grossly inadequate, ineffective and unfair. Most convictions are based on confessions, and police practices in the country condone the use of force or intimidation in extracting involuntary confessions from suspect. It is therefore grossly unsafe to retain and use death sentences in these circumstances because of high possibility of wrong conviction,” he added.

“The increase in crime rate in Nigeria, especially in cases of kidnapping despite its capitalisation by some state governments is an indication that death penalty is not a solution to crime in Nigeria. Despite the domestication of numerous international and regional treaties, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child prohibiting the imposition of death penalty on juvenile offenders below 18 years of age, the Criminal Code and Penal Code Laws of many states in Nigeria imputes full criminal liability on juveniles up to 17 years of age. This allows for the conviction and sentencing of juveniles to death in Nigeria contrary to the federal Child Rights Act, ” he said.

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