HURILAWS Statement on World Day against the Death Penalty
October 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 torture. 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 soul’. While 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, 2285 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 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. On this World 16th World Day Against the Death Penalty, HURILAWS calls on Judges in Nigeria to employ activism to declare this practice unconstitutional. HURILAWS also calls on 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.
Collins Okeke - Senior Legal/Programme Officer
HURILAWS - 10/10/2018
2016 budget’ll meet aspirations of Nigerians – HURILAWS
Senior Legal Programme Officer, Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS), Mr Collins Okeke, yesterday, said the 2016 budget would meet the aspirations of Nigerians across all walks of life, if properly implemented.
Okeke, who spoke at a media briefing in Lagos, on the topic, “Judicial Application of 2015 Election Laws in Nigeria,” pointed out that the 2016 budget was the most ambitious, following a reduction of over N17 billion.
“This is actually the first time Nigeria is having that size reduced from its budget. The infrastructural projects listed in the budget are also very ambitious. The problem we have been having is not passing the budget but implementing it. I am hoping that at the end of May 2017, government should be able to say that at least 60 per cent of the budget has been implemented,” he said.
Speaking on the judicial application of 2015 election laws in Nigeria, Okeke explained that Section 285 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 134 of the Electoral Act needed to be amended to provide exceptions to the election petition timelines.
The HURILAWS Senior Legal Programme Officer noted that the Electoral Act needed to be amended to incorporate and recognize the use of card reader during accreditation of voters.
According to him, card reader reports need to be recognized in the Electoral Act as part of admissible evidence in proof of electoral malpractices such as over-voting.
“The Electoral Act, especially Section 137, needs to be amended to afford locus standi to the electorate to bring election petitions. However, tribunals may also be empowered to consider and summarily dismiss in chambers frivolous petitions and petitions on issues already being canvassed in another petition or which should be more appropriately canvassed by a party to the election,” he added.
Okeke called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that card readers deployed for elections were pre-tested, of the highest quality and user friendly, including training its permanent and ad-hoc staff ahead of elections.
Constitution restructuring’ll revive Nigeria’s economy — HURILAWS
Human Rights Law Service, HURILAWS, has said the crucial issues in the nation’s constitution that should be looked at to revive Nigeria’s economy, include restructuring of the political arrangement to strengthen the states and local governments through the devolution of more powers and funding.
Programmes Officer of HURILAWS, Mr Collins Okeke, contended in Lagos that the major cause of the political and economic tension in in the country was because Nigerians were yet to decide on the constitution which largely accounted for the extremely fragile and slow development of the country.
At a media parley, Okeke noted that the crucial issue in the nation’s constitution included restructuring the political arrangement to strengthen the states and local governments through the devolution of more powers and funding.
According to him: “Ànother issue is to review the legislative list, to reduce the exclusive list which as it stands confers too much power, responsibilities and wealth at the centre as well as the concurrent list which empowers the federal government and gives it more say in matters that ordinarily should be the exclusive domain of state governments.”
“The federal government should strengthen key institutions that support democracy like the courts, INEC, Police, ICPC, Accountant General, Attorney General, CBN, National Human Right Commission, EFCC, Public Defender, Code of Conduct Bureau, Auditor-General etc.”