The Nigerian authorities must immediately scrap plans to execute death row inmates in Kirikiri prison in Lagos, Amnesty International said Friday amid reports from inmates that the prison’s gallows were being prepared and one inmate had been isolated possibly in preparation for execution.
This follows a statement by Adeniji Kazeem, the Attorney General of Lagos State, during a press briefing on April 18, indicating that the state government would soon start signing execution documents.
“The indications that Kirikiri prison authorities may be gearing up for a string of executions are deeply alarming. The death penalty is an outdated and cruel punishment which violates the right to life,” said Damian Ugwu, Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher.
“We also have serious concerns as to whether many of the inmates on death row have received a fair trial. The Nigerian police are overstretched and under-resourced and tend to rely heavily on coerced ‘confessions’ rather than investigations. In some cases death sentences are handed down on the basis of statements signed under torture.
“The Nigerian authorities must halt these executions immediately and establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”
In 2016, Nigeria handed down 527 death sentences – three times more than it did in 2015 – the highest recorded globally excluding China, according to Amnesty International.
Lagos State imposed the highest number of death sentences in 2016, 68 people, which was closely followed by Rivers State with 61, according to official records provided by the Nigeria Prisons Service.
This massive spike in death sentences puts the country at odds with the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty, Mr. Ugwu noted. Currently, 141 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice.
On December 23, 2016, three death row prisoners were put to death in Benin Prison, Edo State. Their executions were carried out despite the fact that one of them, Apostle Igene, was sentenced to death in 1997 by a military tribunal, and never had an appeal.
Amnesty International called on the Nigerian government to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
For years, the federal government has claimed to have a voluntary or self-imposed ‘moratorium’ but executions have happened nonetheless; including those in December 2016.
The authorities have not confirmed officially that they plan to carry out executions imminently at KiriKiri prison.