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HURILAWS urges Judges in Nigeria to declare death penalty unconstitutional

On this World 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, the rights advocacy group, Human Rights Law Service(HURILAWS) has called on Judges in Nigeria to employ activism to declare this practice unconstitutional.

In a statement, Mr. Collins Okeke, a Senior Legal/Programme Officer, said HURILAWS has also urged the Federal and State Governments in Nigeria to stop torturing and traumatizing death row inmates by either abolishing the death penalty or signing into law a death penalty moratorium law.

His full text reads:
10, 2018 is World Day against the Death Penalty. A day set aside every year to
globally advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. 

The theme for this
year is ‘Dignity for All; It aims at
raising awareness on the inhuman living conditions of people sentenced to death;
their physical and psychological sufferings which can in most cases amount to

Under Nigerian law a judge is
required to sentence to death any person found guilty of a capital offence: ‘The sentence of the court upon you is that
you be hanged by the neck until you be dead and may the lord have mercy on your

a judge is mandatorily required to pronounce this on conviction in a capital
offense, the law requires the Governor acting under the recommendation of the
Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy to order execution or commutation
to life imprisonment or some other prison term or pardon.
In practice, since May 29, 1999, most state governors have failed,
refused or neglected to sign warrant of execution. The result is that death
sentences are handed down by the courts and are not carried out.

According to Amnesty
International Global Report on Death Sentences and Executions 2017,
persons are known to be under the sentence of death in Nigeria as at December
2017.  In 2017 alone 621 persons were
sentenced to death. For many of these death row prisoners, conditions are traumatic,
harsh and dehumanizing.

Most death row cells are 7 by 8 feet, shared by three to five
people, the cells are dark and with hardly any ventilation. Prisoners use
buckets as toilets and sleep on the bare floor. The average period spent on death row by prison inmates in Nigeria is
between 10-15 years.
Many death row prisoners have developed mental illness
during their long stay in prison and on death row.
In Nemi v. Attorney-General of Lagos State (1996) 6 NWLR 42 at 55 the
Court of Appeal has held that a convict on death row is entitled to right to dignity
of human person and so should not be 
subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment arising from a
prolonged delay in executing him.

HURILAWS is of the view that since the Death Sentence passed on
convicts are never carried out and will never be carried out; there is no more
constitutional justification for the Sentence of Death. The punishment of death
is protected under Section 33 (1) CFRN 1999
in the execution of the sentence of a court’
and when those who should sign
death warrants are unwilling to, it becomes clear that the Sentence of Death is
unconstitutional since Section 33 (1) covers execution not sentencing in vain keeping
the convicts in the Death Row indefinitely.

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