Human right group urges review of death penalty laws
The head of an International Human Rights group, Avocats Sans Frontieres, Ms. Angela Uwandu has urged Nigerian legislators to review the issue of death penalty, as it does not serve as a deterrent to the commission of crime.
According to her, the strategy in abolition of death penalty is to set short-term goals and have a long-term plan.
Her words: “The short term goal is to stop the expansion of the scope of death penalty in Nigeria by engaging both the executive and the legislative arms of government as more laws have been passed in recent times that promotes death penalty. For instance, law against kidnapping has been adopted and passed in many eastern states.”
Uwandu made this call during a webinar organized by Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) to mark the 18th World Day against death penalty, with the theme, “Access to Counsel: A matter of life or death.”
She added that part of the short-term goals could be challenging the mandatory nature of death penalty in Nigeria.
Apart from Umandu, other speakers at the webinar were National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chino Obiagwu (SAN); National Secretary, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Mr. Anthony Ojukwu; Executive Director, Lawyers Alert, Mr. Rommy Mom and Director, Amnesty International, Ms. Osai Ojigbo.
The keynote speaker, Mr. Ojukwu highlighted the issue of effective legal representation with regards to suspects. According to him, it is the pillar to fair hearing, which is an important part of human right.
He stated that Nigerian Constitution upholds the sanctity of human life.
He further stated that without effective legal representation, there wouldn’t be fair trial, which may eventually lead to wrongful conviction.
“Thus, the Supreme Court in Udofia v. The State held that in capital trial, counsel must realize that it is a matter of life and death and must assist the court to do justice”, he said.
Mr. Obiagwu (SAN), who spoke on “Challenges hindering access to counsel and justice for persons charged with capital offenses and possible solutions” said the theme for this year’s World Day against Death Penalty is very instructive and the challenges hindering access to counsel is centred on the absence of an attentive and readily available scheme.
He further stated that one of the solutions to lack of effective representation is to increase funding for Legal Aid Council, so that the Council can employ more senior lawyers.
According to him, the NBA should also encourage lawyers to take up pro bono cases.
Mr. Obiagwu (SAN) therefore called for the domestication and implementation of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) across the states of the federation.