On Tuesday 8 August, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Ogun state, Dr Olumide Ayeni, revealed that the state has decided to lift the self-imposed moratorium on the death sentence prescribed for “deserving criminals.” He stated that the ban would take effect immediately and the state’s decision is in accordance with the law and constitutional provisions.
“The Government of Ogun State would like to assure the good people of the state and entire compatriots of Nigeria that the decision was not one that was arrived at lightly. It was reached after a due consideration and review of all available facts and circumstances having regard to its paramount duty or obligation in the interest of continued as well as sustainable peace, order, security and good governance,” he said.
He also noted that there will be an increase in heinous crimes without “effective deterrence of capital punishment” specifically when innocent lives were lost in the process.
The introduction of the death penalty in Nigeria has generated mixed opinions and several calls for abolition. Amnesty International (AI) says that it is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, a violation of the right to life and the ultimate denial of human life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also described punishment by death penalty as irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent.
Nigeria operates a federal system, and while there are some federal criminal laws which apply only in southern states, most criminal offences fall under state jurisdiction. Criminal laws vary from state to state across Nigeria.
Though the intentions of the state are noble and in line with constitutional laws, the death penalty is not deterring criminals and reducing the crime rate.
In Edo state – which adopts the death penalty – the rate of crimes increased between 2016 and 2017. The law in Anambra state didn’t stop the recent gruesome murder of eleven church members in Ozubulu community.
In 2016, 527 people were sentenced to death in Nigeria, the highest recorded from an African country and second highest in the world. China has the highest in the world with recorded death sentences numbered in thousands. The Nigerian Prison Service also revealed that 33 pardons were granted, 32 death row prisoners were exonerated and 1,979 people were on death row, including five foreign nationals as at 2016.
It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens from indulging in crimes. Thus, this can be done by focusing on the root cause of these problems.