Amnesty International flags rising death penalty sentences in Nigeria

12 April 2018 - 17:21 By afp
File Photo of a prison jail cell.
File Photo of a prison jail cell.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Amnesty International on Thursday decried the rising number of death penalty sentences in Nigeria at a time most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are making efforts to abolish capital punishment.

The global watchdog said in a report that 621 people in Nigeria were sentenced to death in 2017, while more than 2,000 remained on death row.

"There are a total of 2,285 people on death row in Nigeria," said Amnesty in the report, adding that this is the highest number in the region.

It said the death sentences in Nigeria have risen over the past two years from 171 in 2015 to 527 in 2016, though no executions happened last year.

"The country bucked the trend seen elsewhere in the region, as sub-Saharan Africa made great strides in the global fight to abolish the death penalty," Amnesty said.

Guinea abolished the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya no longer imposes the mandatory death sentence for murder.

Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal the death penalty with new or proposed laws.

Amnesty reported a drop in the number of executing countries across sub-Saharan Africa, from five in 2016 to two in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions.

In Nigeria, the death penalty is imposed for a vast array of crimes, including armed robbery, murder and treason.

Some northern states practise sharia law, which imposes capital punishment for adultery, rape and homosexuality.

The Amnesty report focused on judicial use of the death penalty and does not include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary executions or summary executions.