Sant'Egidio Community, the World Coalition against the Death Penalty and Life Wire International Foundation have called for action on the over exstimated 2,000 people on death row in Nigeria after visiting several prisons in the country. This was followed by a meeting at the end of August in the capital Abuja with representatives of various organizations, such as the Nigerian Bar Association and various NGOs, to discuss the reform of the prison system and the abolition of the death penalty. A joint declaration was signed at the end of the meeting (see Annex).
This meeting came at a particularly opportune time, just one week after the signing of a law on the reform of the penitentiary system. There is no longer talk of 'Nigerian Prisons Service', but of 'Nigerian Correctional Service', where the emphasis is placed on correction with a view to returning to society, rather than just punishment.
During visits to the prison, the overcrowding became evident, mainly due to the presence of a high number of prisoners still awaiting trial or conviction. It is no exception that up to 75% of the prisoners are still awaiting trial.
The closing statement therefore called for the reforms not to stop with a name change and, above all, for better and faster procedures to be put in place so that people do not have to wait indefinitely for a trial. The creation of a specific Commission could contribute to this.
Those present were unanimous in their criticism of the death penalty. By the end of 2018, more than 2,000 people had been sentenced to death in Nigerian cells, 46 of whom had been sentenced to death in 2018. In the past decade, 'only' 7 executions have taken place. A recent amendment to the law ensures that the death penalty can be commuted to life imprisonment after 10 years. Since there is in fact already a 'de facto' moratorium, the declaration called for this to be converted into a legal moratorium.
At the end of the meeting, the participants expressed their wish to continue cooperation in the future in order to ensure that prison reform is properly implemented and to work together towards a full moratorium on executions and the eventual abolition of the death penalty.