Five Crimes That Can Earn You The Death Penalty in Nigeria

January 17, 2023

On January 16, 2023, a high court in Osun State sentenced six people to death on murder and armed robbery charges. These people would join other inmates awaiting death penalty sentencing. 

The death penalty in Nigeria has been under debate for years, as some call it inhumane and archaic. In contrast, others see it as ineffective since these executions are rarely carried out. The last death sentence executed was in 2016, making Nigeria one of the ten African countries to have carried out executions in the past decade. 

What does the constitution say?

According to section 30 (1) of the Nigerian constitution: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.” Simply put, unless found guilty of a capital offence, you have full rights to your life. So what crimes can earn you a visit from the grim reaper?

According to the Criminal and Penal codes, the following offences attract capital punishment:

Murder

In 2018, a Danish man, Peter Nielson, was arrested in Abuja for the murder of his Nigerian wife and daughter. Following several protests and calls for justice, on May 20, 2022, he was sentenced to death by hanging by the Lagos state High Court.

Death penalty Nigeria

Armed robbery

On February 22, 2022, a 36-year-old man was also sentenced to death by hanging after being found guilty of robbing a warehouse in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, in December 2015. He was convicted on the charges of armed robbery, conspiracy and possession of firearms.

Armed robbery does not have to be guns; if there is a possibility of harm to life due to the presence of a weapon, then a person armed with a knife is likely to be treated similarly to one armed with a gun. 

Blasphemy

According to the penal code operating in Northern Nigeria, blasphemy is a serious offence punishable by death – blasphemy in southern Nigeria can earn you up to two years imprisonment. On December 15, 2022, a prominent Muslim cleric, Sheikh Abduljabbar Nasiru Kabara, was sentenced to death for his teachings which were believed to misinterpret religious texts and spread lies about the Prophet. Although the cleric maintained his innocence, the judge ruled against him and ordered that his two mosques be closed down.

Death penalty Nigeria

Kidnapping

On September 28, 2017, the senate approved the death sentence bill for kidnappers and a 30-year jail term for people conspiring with them. The bill states: “ Whoever is guilty of the offence and then results in the death of the victim shall be liable on conviction to be sentenced to death.” The senate unanimously passed the bill to combat kidnapping at the time. It is, however, unfortunate that this problem has only gotten worse over the years.

Homosexuality

On July 2, 2022, a Sharia court in Bauchi state sentenced three men to death by stoning for homosexuality. And although in 2014, former president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill convicting people guilty of same-sex marriage to 14 years imprisonment, under the Penal Code, the punishment for homosexuality or sodomy is death. 

How effective is the death penalty?

So far, the death penalty has done little to nothing to deter people from a life of crime. Instead, it has exposed the gaps in our justice system, as some of those on death row were tortured into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. Also, many end up never executed, which results in prison congestion. 

So maybe the government should spend more time improving the security and justice system, preventing crimes from occurring. And also put more funding into rehabilitating these convicts and putting them to good use for society rather than wasting them in prison for a death that may never come.

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