2,000 Inmates on Death Roll in Nigeria, Say NGOs

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

A coalition of non-governmental organisations, including the Community of Sant’Egidio, the World Coalition for the Abolition of Death Penalty and Life Wire International Foundation, have revealed that there are over 2,000 people on death roll in Nigeria as at the end of 2018.

The organisations, which said to have made visit to different prisons in Nigeria, including Ikoyi, Kirikiri, Port Harcourt and Enugu prisons, however, commended the federal government for the recent adoption of the bill on prison reform, changing the name of the Nigerian Prisons Service to Nigerian Correctional Services.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Abuja on the theme: “Prison Reform and Ending Death Penalty in Nigeria,” Prof. Jan De Volder of Sant’Egidio Community expressed concerns over the continuing flaws in the system, especially the prison congestion, which he said was also due to the presence of abnormal high number of non-convicted inmates waiting for their trial in prison.

He called on stakeholders to ensure that the recent adopted bill should be more than a name change and window dressing, but a beginning of new mind-set, which helps to make the Nigerian Correctional System more human and effective.

Volder lamented that 75 per cent of inmates in various prisons across the country are currently awaiting trial.

Volder called on the lawmakers and people involved in the judiciary to make sure that the laws are properly implemented, especially for quicker and better procedures, so that non-convicted suspects do not spend endless time behind the bars. The groups also called for a constitution of a commission by the state governments to ensure that files move on a daily basis from the magistrates’ courts to the ministry are promptly treated.

Also, speaking Ms. Annemarie Pieters of the World Coalition for the Abolition of Death Penalty, said the coalition appreciated the fact that the new law provides the possibility to change capital punishment to life imprisonment after 10 years.

She said: “The fact that the death penalty is not carried out frequently, only seven in the last decade, resulting in a kind of ‘de facto moratorium’ on executions.

“We express concern for the fact that Nigeria continues to have many death sentences, despite the proven fact that this is not a deterrent factor for new crimes to be committed, and that, on the contrary, state violence increases rather than decreases…

“By the end of 2018, there are over 2,000 people on death roll in Nigeria including at least 46 people that have been sentenced to death that year, which is the highest number of people on death roll in the region by the end of 2018.”

Against this background, Pieters called on Nigerian policymakers and governments to be part of the growing worldwide movement, especially in African continent, where many countries have legally abolished the death penalty or applied a de facto moratorium on capital punishment, to withdraw from capital punishment and to move towards abolition of the death penalty.