Dons disagree on abolition of death penalty in Nigeria

University lecturers on Thursday expressed divergent opinions on the continued relevance of the death penalty in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The dons expressed their views, in Lagos, at the 6th Annual Legal Workshop organized by the Nigeria Association of Muslim Law Students, Lagos State University (LASU) chapter; in honour of Idowu Sofola, the Chairman of the Nigerian Body of Benchers.

Delivering a paper titled ‘Jurisprudential Review of Death Penalty under Regional and International Human Rights Instruments: Implications for Nigeria,’ Akin Ibidapo-Obe, the guest speaker, called for the abolition of death penalty in Nigeria.

“Retribution, is one of the philosophies which, has been used to justify the death penalty,” said Mr. Ibidapo-Obe, a Law Professor at the University of Lagos.

While explaining how the death penalty has moved, over the years: from the retributive stage, to rehabilitation, to deterrence, and now to restorative justice;  Mr. Ibidapo-Obe stated that the ruling class had continually used it to “take care” of their enemies.

“Over time, there has been a rampant use and abuse by the powers that be to advance their hegemony over their enemies.”

Sharia and death penalty

On Islamic (Sharia) law and death penalty, the don said that there had been efforts to merge Sharia law with the newly accepted criminal justice system.

“Death penalty offences in Sharia law include intentional homicide, apostasy, adultery, witchcraft, criminal charms, armed robbery, sodomy,” Mr. Ibidapo-Obe said. “The Islamic death penalty is executed in different ways such as stoning, crucifixion, impaling.”

He explained that while a married man would be sentenced to death if he commits sodomy, an unmarried man would be sentenced to 100 lashes or one year imprisonment.

The lecturer clamoured for a reduction of the offences which could lead to a death penalty.

Remove death penalty for sex offenders

Notable scholars, according to the guest speaker, have suggested the removal of sexual offences from death penalty. They have also canvassed for the use of modern methods to cause death rather than stoning, crucifixion, and impalement, which are among the most excruciating ways of dying.

Mr. Ibidapo-Obe explained that the claim that death penalty serves as a deterrence was an assumption, saying ” it is very easy to assume that when I see X being hanged, I’ll be able to refrain from that crime.”

Death is not cheaper

While explaining other justifications for death penalty, the don stated that “people say it is cheaper to kill armed robbers than to keep them.”

He said this had been proven untrue, particularly in the United States where “a research showed that the money spent to prosecute is higher than to go to jail.”

“It costs about US$ 3 million in Texas to exhaust the criminal justice during prosecution while it will cost US$ 2.3 million to keep 3 people in jail for 40 years,” he said.

Mr. Ibidapo-Obe said that those who argue against the imposition of death penalty say that “God is the only person that has power to take life away.”

Don’t abolish death penalty

While Mr. Ibidapo-Obe made a strong case for its outright abolition; another lecturer, F. Adeleke called for the retention of the death penalty.

“The problem of the Western world is that when they have an agenda, they bring religion into it,” said Mr. Adeleke, an associate Professor and Head of Department, Public Law, at LASU.

“Death penalty has nothing to do with religion. Japan is not a Muslim country, they have abolished it and started it again,” Mr. Adeleke said. “If they are basing their reason for abolition on torture, you can use euthanasia, the person will die before knowing it.

“More than half of the world population is practicing death penalty,” the don said


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