France, Australia, NGO kick against death penalty in Nigeria

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By Taiye Agbaje

France, Australia and Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) France, an international non governmental organisations (NGO), on Tuesday, reaffirmed their firm opposition to death penalty in Nigeria and anywhere in the world.
The call against capital punishment came at the event to mark World Day Against Death Penalty 2023 in Abuja.
Ambassador of France to Nigeria, Emmanuelle Blatmann, said since the day was established in 2002, France had always seized the opportunity in all international fora to advocate universal abolition of death penalty.
She said 53 countries around the world still authorised the death penalty, including Nigeria.
“Every year, we continue to try to raise awareness on this common cause and diversify our means of action and efforts so that one day, this major issue will no longer be in the world, in Nigeria and elsewhere.
“In 2022, Amnesty International recorded 2,016 death sentences in 52 countries.
“Also in 2022, at least 883 executions in 20 countries took place, and this is unfortunately an increase of 53% compared to 2021,” she said
Charge D’ Affaires of Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ms Leann Johnston, also corroborated Blatmann’s statement.
Johnston said Australia opposed death penalty in all circumstances for all people and it also supported the universal! abolition of capital punishment.
According to her, on the latest figures, there are sorne 3,300 death row inmates in Nigeria who live daily with this sentence hanging over them — not just them, but their families also.
She said though the last death penalty in Nigeria took place in 2016, the envoy urged Nigerian government to go a step further and implement the official moratorium.
“l am pleased to see that Ghana abolished the death penalty in 2023, the Central African Republic in 2022 and Sierra Leone in 2021.
“I call on Nigeria to implement an official moratorium on executions and to move towards formal abolition of the death penalty,” she said.
The Country Director, ASF France, also known as Lawyers Without Birders, France, Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, said death penalty does not deter crime; it does not offer the prospect of rehabilitation and it is irreversible where there is a miscarriage of justice.
Uzoma-Iwuchukwu noted that a Nigerian police officer, Darambi Vandi, who was said to have shot dead a Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs Bolanle Raheem, on Christmas Day in 2022, was just sentenced to death by hanging on Monday.
She said the event was organised by the NGO, in conjunction with France Embassy and Australian High Commission, to step up campaign against death penalty in Nigeria.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, said death penalty is “one of the most critical human rights issues of our time.”
Fagbemi, represented by Mr Felix Ota-Okojie, Secretary, Federal Justice Reform Coordinating Committee, Federal Ministry 6if Justice, said the death penalty and the debate surrounding its use as a form of punishment had continued to stoke feelings all around the world, especially in Nigeria.
He said the country still retains the death penalty as a legal form of punishment for certain grievous crimes, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping, treason, conspiracy to treason, sedition, treachery, among others.
“Furthermore, the list of capital offences for which the death penalty may be applied is increased as a result of the adoption of Sharia-based criminal law in some states in the Northern part of Nigeria.
“While it is true that the death penalty is still a legal punishment in Nigeria, it is important to highlight that in recent history, executions have been comparatively low and their frequency has fluctuated over time, changing how the death penalty is actually applied,’ he said.
NAN reports that while this year’s World Day Against the Death Penalty, was titled: “Death Penalty: An Irreversible Torture,” some of the sideline activities at the event included panel discussion, movie screening, etc.(NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

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Edited by Sadiya Hamza

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