On 10th October every year, the World Coalition against Death Penalty and the Abolitionists mark World Day against Death Penalty. 2018 World Day against Death Penalty focuses on the living conditions of those sentenced to death. In acknowledgement of the Human Rights perspective of this year's focus,
the National Human Rights Commission observes that in addition to prospect of execution, prison condition in Nigeria inflicts physical and psychological suffering to those sentenced to death and could amount to torture. The Commission further observes that freedom from torture is a non-derogable human right, and that Nigeria is a party to the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocols; and has domesticated this instrument by virtue of the Anti-Torture Act (2017). Nigerian Government is therefore under obligation to give effect to the spirit and letters of these instruments.
Pursuant to Sections 5 and 6 of the NHRC ACT (1995) as amended, the NHRC is empowered to promote, protect and enforce human rights in Nigeria.
Corollary to the above, the NHRC affirms that :
i. death penalty is provided for in Section 33 (1) of the1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pursuant to execution of Court Order;
ii. Death penalty as a retributive measure may not serve as deterrent to crime;
iii. Imprisonment is no longer seen solely as a retributive measure but is targeted at reformation, rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.
iv. Considering the challenges faced by our Criminal Justice Administration System, it is necessary for all concerned to exercise caution in carrying out executions of convicted inmates;
v. The National Human Rights Commission reiterates the Federal Government's position of Moratorium on Death Penalty pursuant to the recommendations of the National Study Group on Death Penalty ;through the Office of Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice ;
vi. the said National Study Group had the National human Rights Commission as the Secretariat as well as other key agencies and respectable Nigerians who consulted widely across the country before submitting its report.
Consequently, the National Human Rights Commission in commemoration of the 2018 World Day against Death Penalty reiterates that:
a. the lack of certainty on the fate of death row inmates as well as their living conditions in prison is worrisome as it has grave human rights implications ;
b. the President and State Governors should consider commuting the sentences of all death row inmates to life imprisonment in line with new thinking on essence of imprisonment.;
c. there is need to revisit the findings of the Study Group which gave birth to the Moratorium on Death Penalty for a better understanding of the justification for Moratorium in Nigeria;
d. the adoption of official Moratorium and eventual abolition of death penalty in Nigeria is a proactive step in fulfillment of Nigeria's international human rights obligations.
e. all stakeholders should join hands in advocacy for a rethink on retaining Death Penalty in Nigeria's legal System.
Dated this 10th Day of October 2018 in commemoration of 2018 World Day against Death Penalty.
Tony Ojukwu Esq
Executive Secretary NHRC