Nigeria: UN Asks Nigeria to End Death Penalty, Rights Violations

The calls on Nigeria to abolish the death penalty were made on Tuesday at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Nigeria in Geneva, Switzerland.

The United Nations has urged the Nigerian government to abolish the death penalty.

Currently, Nigeria’s correctional centres have 3,413 inmates on death row, Abubakar Umar, spokesperson for the Nigerian Correctional Services, said last December.

Member States of the global body called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty pending its abolition from Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

The calls were made on Tuesday at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Nigeria in Geneva, Switzerland.

Nigeria’s delegation led by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi, is currently in Geneva for the UPR, which happens every four to five years.

The UPR is a unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council that calls for each UN Member State to undergo a peer review of its human rights records every 4.5 years.

While presenting Nigeria’s report of its human rights efforts, Mr Fagbemi reeled out a plethora of laws and policies enacted by the government to curb rights abuses.

“Nigeria has enacted several legislations such as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015), the Child Rights Act, and Anti-Torture Act amongst others to safeguard the rights of Nigerians,” the justice minister said, while being flanked by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Jeddy-Agba.

A PREMIUM TIMES reporter was at the UN House in Abuja on Tuesday and monitored the Geneva proceedings of Nigeria’s presentation of its human rights status to the UN Human Rights Council.

Nigeria’s human rights report

The Attorney General said Nigeria’s quest for an improved human rights record led to the strengthening of public institutions to ensure accountability in the event of violations.

Mr Fagbemi explained that the country had taken steps to “promote and protect the enjoyment of fundamental human rights of Nigerians.”

“Nigeria remains committed to the promotion of the rule of law and obedience to court decisions. Nigeria has designated the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) as the independent Nationa Preventive Mechanism against torture,” the AGF said.

He added that the Child Rights Act is now domesticated across the 36 states of Nigeria, while the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Act is already adopted in many States across the country.

Speaking further on other areas of rights enforcement, the minister noted that the government set up investigative panels following protests over police brutality in Nigeria in 2020, with outcomes of the probe leading to payment of compensations to victims of violations.

On the Nigerian delegation are Wale Fapohunda, a former Attorney-General of Ekiti State; Olumide Osoba, a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, House Committee on Justice; Abdulrahman Yukubu, a director at the National Human Rights Commission; and the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Ms Jeddy-Agba.

They took turns to present Nigeria’s report of its implementation of human rights mechanisms, which were previously recommended by the UN Human Rights Council.

Nigeria was last reviewed by the 193-member body in 2018 when it made far-reaching recommendations aimed at bolstering the country’s human rights status.

However, the Nigerian government’s claims of its accomplishments in the “protection and promotion of Nigerians rights” are at variance with practical issues in the country.

Angela Uzoma-Nwandu, the country director of Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF) in Nigeria, said “Policies and legislation are as good as their implementation.”

Ms Uzoma-Nwandu added policy implementation would guarantee the realisation of human rights in Nigeria.

She noted that it was time for Nigeria to abrogate the death penalty because it violates the right to life.

Issues of arbitrary arrests and detention, press freedom, torture, shrinking of civic space and religious intolerance continue to plague Nigerians.

For instance, Deborah Samuel, an undergraduate was gruesomely murdered in Sokoto State, north-west Nigeria in 2022. The government promised to bring the perpetrators of the dastardly act to justice, but it reneged on it.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence incidents are rampant with many perpetrators going scot-free.

Last November, Amnesty International urged President Bola Tinubu to “make human rights protection its priority by ensuring that every Nigerian’s rights are protected and that perpetrators of rights breaches do not go unpunished.”

It accused President Tinubu of failing in his responsibility to uphold the rights of Nigerians owing to widespread violent crimes and poverty.

Ghana, Togo, US, Canada others urge Nigeria on rights protection

In their separate review of Nigeria’s human rights records, West African countries like Ghana, Togo, and Gabon urged the government to end the death penalty and tackle gender-based violence.

Other African countries in their broad assessment of various rights issues, recommended the strengthening of public institutions to deliver on qualitative healthcare and education for Nigerians.

The United States and Canada expressed their concerns about Nigeria’s human rights conditions, calling for the full implementation of recommendations by the EndSARS panels.

They said the Nigerian government must prioritise the prosecution and punishment of law enforcement officers indicted for rights breaches.

They also urged Nigeria to decriminalise same-sex marriage. The offence carries a 14-year jail term.

But in his response to the issue of LGBTQ, the justice minister said Nigeria’s laws are a reflection of the country’s cultural background.

Speaking further, Mr Fagbemi said Nigeria had begun commuting the death penalty to life imprisonment in line with the correctional services law.

Nigeria last had its death sentence execution in 2016 in Edo State, South-south Nigeria.

Adwoa Kufuor, senior human rights adviser at the UN in Abuja, told PREMIUM TIMES that the global body would collaborate with the Nigerian government in meeting its obligations in terms of human rights protection.

Ms Kufuor itemised key thematic rights issues upon which Nigeria was reviewed including – the death penalty, women’s empowerment, SGVB, qualitative education, universal health coverage, and rights of the aged, among others.

The ambassador of Belgium to Nigeria, Pieter Leenknegt, was at the UN House in Abuja, from where he watched the Geneva proceedings on Nigeria.

He noted the observations and recommendations of UN Member States to Nigeria on LGBTQS and social protection.

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