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To Kill Or Not To Kill: Unending Debate About Death Penalty in Nigeria By Damian Ugwu

October 10, 2022

The following can attract the death penalty in Nigeria: armed robbery, murder, rape, terrorism-related offenses, and treason and kidnapping.

the harrowing spell condemned inmates go through daily in solitary cells, humbled by the force of an impending death that seems to be an eternity. It is within this context that an NGO is currently in court challenging the 36 state governors on the grounds that the imposition of the death penalty constitutes torture and cruel treatment. 

A former Nigerian Vice president during the military era Admiral Augustus Aikhomu was once asked about the deteriorating living condition of Inmates. He quickly fired back ” Is prison a hotel?” His response, unfortunately, mirrors the mindset of successive Nigerian governments toward the welfare condition of death row inmates. Four out of every five Nigerian prisons were built before 1950. Many needs renovation: the infrastructure is old, many buildings can no longer be used, ceilings in others are about to collapse, and sanitary facilities have broken down. Many of the prisons do not have modern drainage systems, instead, they use open drains that create a serious health risk for inmates and staff alike. Most cells have only small windows for ventilation. Death row inmates face even worse conditions. Those on death row are held in tiny, dark, and filthy cells, with almost no ventilation. They are allowed outside their cells during the day, along with other convicted inmates but most times spent their time in solitary cells. Many have spent up to 30 years awaiting death. Death row inmates are not seen as humans. 

 The use of the death penalty is no longer fashionable. Today, two-thirds of countries in the world have either abolished the death penalty outrightly or no longer use it in practice. Earlier this year Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic abolished the death penalty. So do over 20 other countries in Africa including Sierra Leone (2021), Chad (2020), and Guinea (2017). Europe remains virtually free of the death penalty. And the US is slowly turning against capital punishment. Nigeria cannot be left behind, but to achieve this, section 33 of the Constitution which forms the operational ground for the application of the death penalty will have to be amended. 


Damian Ugwu Is a human rights researcher and anti-death penalty advocate