The United Kingdom on Monday appealed to Nigeria to abolish the death penalty, saying that capital punishment cheapened human life.
The UK made the appeal in a statement issued by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, on the 2016 World Day against the Death Penalty.
Mr. Arkwright said the British Government believed the death penalty had no place in the modern world and its use undermined human dignity.
According to him, there is no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value, adding that any miscarriage of justice leading to its imposition is irreversible and irreparable.
He explained that the past two decades had seen a significant rise in the number of countries that had abolished capital punishment.
“I am concerned therefore that Nigeria, a model for democracy in Africa, still retains the death penalty in its laws.
“In 2013 Nigeria carried out four executions, the first since 2006.
“At the time of the execution, all four individuals still had appeals to halt their executions, a violation of international law and I believe Nigerian law too.”
He said while no death sentence had been implemented since 2013, Nigeria had more than 1,000 prisoners on death row, the highest number of death sentences in Africa.
“In 2015, Nigeria recorded 171 death sentences. This year too, there have been death sentences handed down by Nigerian courts,” he said.
The High Commissioner pointed out that capital punishment fuelled hatred, extremism and terrorism.
“With the security challenges Nigeria faces today, some argue that retaining the death penalty is a just response to terrorism.
“My response to this view is that there is evidence judicial killing fuels hatred, extremism and terrorism. The real risk is that executing terrorists can generate many more to take their place,” said the British envoy.
Arkwright explained that many African countries had abolished capital punishment adding, the trajectory was very much towards abolition across the continent.
“African nations like Togo, Burundi, Gabon, Congo and Madagascar have recently abolished the death penalty.
“Niger, Equatorial Guinea and Eritrea voted in support of the most recent UN General Assembly resolution on the death penalty moratorium for the first time in 2014.
“To date, 35 out of 54 African countries are already abolitionist in law or practice, from 21 in 1997,” the British envoy said.
According to him, Nigeria, the ‘giant’ of Africa, should also be a leading vanguard for the abolition.
“Today is another opportunity for Nigeria to commit to expunging capital punishment from its statutes; this will greatly improve Nigeria’s international standing, including on the Human Rights index.”
He added that the UK was working with the civil society to step up engagement on this subject and restore the sanctity to life that capital punishment takes away.
Oct. 10 is set aside by countries around the world to commemorate the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Barnabas Hunjo, Esq.
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