Capital punishment in Nigerian law: should it be maintained or abolished?

The debate maintaining/abolition of capital punishment is endless. Despite the fact that many countries lean towards the abolitionist side, some countries still use the death penalty.

The phrase capital punishment can be traced to the Old Latin word hood, meaning to decapitate a person. Therefore, a capital offense is any offense punishable by death. However, the history of the death penalty, from ancient Rome to the present day, is marked by substantial errors and injustices.

Clinging to this barbaric system, consistent with outdated revenge thinking, is unacceptable in the 21st century, especially in a modern democracy.

32 countries have abolished the death penalty. 108 countries have abandoned it. 8 countries reserve it only for special crimes. This makes a total of approximately 70% of countries in the world that no longer apply the death penalty.

But in Africa, about 25 countries no longer use the death penalty system, and for Nigeria to take its rightful place as the giant of Africa, and also set an example for other developing countries , it must abolish the death penalty.

Substantial error

In 1944, a black miner in the United States named George Stinney was convicted of murder and executed. Decades after Stinney’s execution, reinvestigation into the case led to new DNA evidence that showed he was innocent. This rate of errors and miscarriages of justice associated with the death penalty system was alarming.

Additionally, between 1978, when the United States reinstated the death penalty, and 2018, there were nearly 170 death row exonerations due to new DNA evidence. In fact, for every ten people sentenced to death in the United States, one person will be declared innocent. Therefore, the risk of executing innocent people is great.

This leaves us with a question. If the United States has a commendable criminal justice system and cannot make the capital punishment system work without error, how will Nigeria fare?

The criminal justice system in Nigeria is plagued by eyewitness misidentifications, confessions obtained under torture, poorly investigated cases and corruption. Yet the government condemns people to death in a system as dysfunctional as ours.

President Olusegun Obasanjo was an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty during his tenure as President of Nigeria. He established the National Study Group on the Death Penalty (2004) and the Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice (2007). And at the end of his tenure, these bodies came to the conclusion that Nigeria should abolish the death penalty. Indeed, the criminal justice system in Nigeria cannot guarantee a fair trial.


There is no evidence whatsoever that proves that the existence of the death penalty affects the crime rate. The only thing the death penalty does is to prevent the criminal from repeating the same crime. And life imprisonment without the possibility of parole will lead to the same result.

After the death penalty was reinstated in the United States in 1978, the homicide rate increased by 80% in the 1980s. Clearly, the death penalty system does not deter people from committing crimes .

The idea that the death penalty deters people from committing crimes is just a myth. In reality, countries that practice the death penalty suffer from a higher rate of violence.

Economic cost

The government is wasting a lot of taxpayers’ money on the dysfunctional death penalty system. The amount of money spent on a single execution in Nigeria is dramatically high.

Indefinite period

In Nigeria, there are currently around 800 death row inmates who have been awaiting execution for between 5 and 20 years. This is because governors are reluctant to sign death warrants.

Governors’ reluctance to sign death warrants creates a distinct sentence, as those on death row live daily in physical and psychological anguish, awaiting the executioner’s noose every other day. This punishment is worse than death.

Furthermore, it is cruel and inhuman treatment, and a violation of the rights to human dignity and personal freedom as set out in Articles 34 and 35 of the 1999 Constitution. It is also an insult to the democratic status of the nation.


It is wrong to assume that death is the most severe and brutal punishment for the most serious offenses. In most cases, submission to eternal solitude and anguish can be far more painful than death. Death then becomes an escape. This is the reason for euthanasia.

President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, has made it clear when it comes to terrorism and armed conflict that we do not respond to terror with terror. If we do, we reduce ourselves to the same level as the criminals and give them a just cause. Therefore, they become more aggressive. In the end, they count those who die as martyrs.

In conclusion, you can’t kill people if you want to show that killing people is wrong.

Amnesty International. The death penalty in Nigeria

About Norman Griggs

Check Also

Death row inmate orders ‘monstrous’ last meal

Death row inmate James Coddington’s last meal shocked the internet. It has even been called …