Leadership (Abuja)

21 December 2013

Nigeria: 20 Women, 1,014 Men Face Execution - Prison Service

With 20 women and 1,014 men awaiting execution in Nigeria, the country is rated among the top 10 nations having its citizens and foreigners on death row.

The only edge Nigeria has over China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United States, Pakistan and Yemen is that it has the least executions - four persons from Edo State - as against thousands in China and hundreds in other countries.

From the records of Amnesty International, of the 10 most active nations in the handing out of death sentences and executions China leads the pack, with thousands of inmates executed and awaiting trial.

Iran is next with 1,663 executions, 156 awaiting execution. Saudi Arabia has 423 and 54; Iraq 256 and 1,420; US 220 and 504; Pakistan 171 and 1,497; Yemen 152 and 109; North Korea 105 and none; Vietnam 58 and 258 and Libya 39 and none, executions and awaiting execution respectively. And as criticism continues to trail the retention of the law that allows for the execution of criminals in Nigeria, authorities of the Nigerian Prison Services (NPS) told LEADERSHIP Weekend that there are 1,034 convicts on death row in the country.

A breakdown of the figures shows that 20 are women and 1,034 are men, who are kept in various prisons across the country.

In an interview with LEADERSHIP Weekend, the NPS deputy comptroller and spokesman, Mr Ope Fatinikun further disclosed that 467 persons are serving life imprisonment terms.

Fatinikun confirmed the number of condemned inmates, known as "Condemned Convicts" (CCs). "It is true we have over 1,000 condemned inmates in our various prisons across the nation.

They are locked up for security reasons. We have about 20 condemned female prisoners, eight 'lifers'. We also have 1,014 condemned male inmates and 459 male 'lifers'," he said.

He however said that there were no minors in jail, "as all prisoners aged 18 and below are usually sent to the Borstal training institutions for reformation.

All prisoners that are 18 years and below are sent to Borstal training centres in Kaduna, Ilorin and Abeokuta for reformation," he stated.

When asked on the distribution of the condemned across the federation, the NPS spokesman declined to provide such information, citing security reasons. He only said some states have more prisoners than others.

It was however learnt that Lagos State tops the list, followed by Borno, Kaduna and Kano states.

On whether foreigners are on death row in Nigerian prisons, Fatinikun said, "Definitely, we have some foreigners in our prisons, but I am not going to tell you their nationalities and where they are kept, for security reasons."

Fatinikun however recalled the recent conviction of a Lebanese national by an Abuja court for terrorism. According to him, the prisoner is serving a life sentence in Kuje Prison.

The last executions carried out in Nigeria were of four condemned prisoners on June 24, 2013 in Benin, when Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State signed the death warrants of Chima Ejiofor, who was arrested in Edo State on November 29, 1994 and convicted on August 21, 1998 at the age of 27, after spending 15 years in prison, and three others.

Daniel Nsofor, who was arrested in Edo State on November 31, 1992 and convicted on June 19, 1996, spent 17 years after conviction, with his right of appeal exhausted at the Supreme Court. Osarenmwinda Aiguokhan, arrested on July 7, 1993 and convicted for armed robbery by a military tribunal on January 18, 1996, spent 17 years after conviction and Richard Igagu, arrested in 1994 and convicted on December 19, 1995 by an Edo State High Court spent 18 years in prison after conviction.

The execution of the prisoners in Nigeria drew a backlash from some human rights groups within and outside the country.

Fatinikun said the NPS grants certain specialists access to the prisoners on death row, such as criminologists, psychologists, sociologists and chaplains and imams, to encourage them to hang on to life.

The NPS also said that some of the prisoners on death row were studying various courses at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), adding that, "It is only when someone dies that acquiring of knowledge stops."

An Abuja-based lawyer, Nathaniel Ojile said that the inability of some state governors to sign the death warrants of condemned convicts was due to the moral burden such exerted.

Professor Josiah Shindu, a psychologist and head of the Department of Psychology, Benue State University, Makurdi, argued against the execution of prisoners in Nigeria.

He said research had shown that prisoners on death row often regretted their terrible past after spending some time in the prison.

"Many of them have sent messages to relations, friends and peer groups not to follow in their footsteps after listening to religious leaders, while a few insist on their innocence."

Also, a sociologist at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Dr Theophilus Lagi, was of the view that the Nigerian justice system tends to protect the interests of some people over others. "Many governors are refusing to sign the death warrants of condemned convicts, because of issues of morality, religion and political undertones; they are scared of being seen as murderers," he said.

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