The federal government has been dragged before the Federal High Court, Abuja seeking the abolition of death penalty.
The plaintiff, an international human rights organisation, Avocats Sans Frontieres France, popularly known as Lawyers Without Borders, prayed the court to abolish capital punishment from the nation’s statute books.
The organisation in the suit filed by its lawyer, Oluwatoyin Badejogbe, argued that capital punishment is an obsolete and inhuman degrading treatment which infringes on the right to human life.
ASF added that since death penalty is proven as inefficient and does not stop crime noting that it should not be retained in the law books of Nigeria.
Country director of ASF France, Angela Uwandu Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, said capital offence is being abolished across the countries of the world adding that Nigeria should not be an exception.
She said, “We have a case in the FCT High Court challenging the mandatory nature of the death penalty. Among other reliefs, we are challenging mandatory nature of the death penalty in Nigeria. This has been successfully done by other countries, including Uganda.
“The mandatory nature of the death penalty was successfully challenged in Uganda. Such challenges have brought about the abolition of death penalty in South Africa. We will see how our Courts in Nigeria will react to it.
“In 2011, ASF launched Saving Life Project on death penalty in Nigeria. In that project, we handled over 150 cases of persons facing death penalty across eight states in Nigeria. We continued to equip other lawyers to do this as part of our sustainability plan on pro bono basis.
“Let me mention that particularly in Nigeria, we have over 3000 persons on death row. Nigeria unfortunately has more persons on death row than any other country in the African continent. The death penalty is not efficient, it is not stopping crime. So why should we continue to retain it in our statute books?
“Can we, for example, enforce the section of the Nigerian Correctional Services Act which says that a person who has spent ten years on death row may have the sentence commuted to other forms of imprisonment? We will like to see the section implemented.”
“Today, we kicked off activities to mark the 19th World Day Against Death Penalty; so ASF France is one of the organizations working globally for the abolition of death penalty. We believe that death penalty is obsolete, an inhuman degrading treatment and an infringement on the right to life. We believe that execution, once carried out is irreversible, even if there is fresh evidence to show innocence.
“So, because of the irreversibility of this injustice, we are calling for the abolition of death penalty, we also know that death penalty does not deter crime and is a widely misconceived view. We would rather call for drastic measures on the part of the government in preventing crime. That is what is needed and not waiting to sentence people to death.
“We also know that death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor because we have cases of persons on death row and you won’t find rich Nigerians on death row. Many of our clients are those without means who can’t afford the services of a lawyer.
“We also know that the quality of legal counsel goes a long in determining whether he or she will be sentenced to death. There are also reasons which border on discrimination. There’s also racial discrimination in handling death penalty. We are joining the world to call for abolition of death penalty.
“But as a first step, we are calling on Nigeria to review the mandatory death penalty. We want Judges to exercise discretion based on the facts of the case before them and not having legislation that ties their hands to say, ‘you must give death penalty.’
“But today, we are training 16 lawyers drawn from six states in Nigeria, who represent persons facing death penalty by providing them with skills to be able to represent their clients facing death penalty and fur them to get access to justice.”