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Death Penalty Abolition and Missing Fundamentals Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Wilfred Mamah, United Kingdom Jul 27, 2004
Human Rights   Opinions


Funding is the next critical gap that has raised the stake higher in human rights work. It seems that international grant agencies are becoming extra-careful in dishing out funds. No one should actually blame them; for the simple reason that some have "fed fat on international grants, only to defecate on the feet of grantors". We cannot run away from issues of transparency and accountability. For quite some time now, Nigeria has continued to occupy a frontline position in the international corruption index. There are allegations that some have secured funding and failed to apply it properly. There is an Ibo proverb that when one finger is soiled with oil, other fingers ultimately get soiled. But that proverb is at poles with my notion of justice. The fact remains that there are many pro-poor/development organisations that are doing very well and need to be supported. I feel strongly that death penalty and justice reform issues are sexy areas that ought to attract funding. I see an interconnection between a virile justice system and economic growth. It is obvious therefore that needs/seeds and other development paradigms will not pan out if we fail to rebuild the justice substratum. On issues of funding, it should further be noted that it is high time we looked inward and map out strategies for raising funding locally. I am yet to understand why we have not been able to get the private sectors interested in human rights/ development work. I feel strongly that human work ought to fall within the compass of corporate social responsibility. I think we should also think of creating a partnership with the private sectors.

For the abolitionists, I think the priority funding need now should be on the area of statistics. It would be interesting to know how many Nigerians have been executed and for what crimes? Any proven instance of the execution of an innocent person? What of the background of those executed? Could it be true that death sentences are disproportionately being used against the poor? What of crime statistics and how has death sentences impacted on it?

Another critical are of concern, is the issue of political will. In a democracy, you have to follow a process to change anything. If for instance, we desire to push for a moratorium, we will need the legislatures. I am afraid we have not been able to lobby our way through the government system. Our advocacy/lobbying strategies seem weak. The present administration seems keen on reform. The problem some of us encounter in evaluating government's passion for reform, is where to draw the line between theory and practice. For instance, on the issue of death penalty, I have heard top government officials say that it should be abolished in line with international movement towards abolition. I am aware of the commendable efforts of the Attorney General of the Federation on issues of Justice Reform, incorporating death penalty. I am equally aware that the AG's study Group will soon come up with its report, but I am worried however on issue of implementation. I cannot say for sure whether a Bill to abolish or institute a moratorium regime would sail through. My worries are further compounded by absence of strong co-ordination among civil society groups and the weak interface with government's efforts. We are however hoping that the recent coalition building efforts will pan out results.

In conclusion, I would like to suggest that abolitionists and retentionists compare notes and fashion out common grounds. It seems to me that there are several common grounds, on which we can build a consensus. For instance, we all agree that crimes are serious problems and proven offenders should be punished. We agree that innocent people should not be punished. We also agree that Nigerian criminal justice system faces serious problems at various fronts. For instance, we agree that the present method of apprehension and investigation by police is not in the best of shape. We agree that there is a likelihood of corruption and miscarriage of justice, and so on. If we compare notes and agree on all those, our task may be easier. We will now be considering whether punishment should fit the crime or be adequate for the offender's rehabilitation and reclamation. We may think of analysing the trend at international level. For instance, Nigeria has ratified the International Criminal Court Treaty, otherwise referred to as the Rome Statute. Article 5 of the ICC Treaty provides for offences within the jurisdiction of the ICC. The offences listed are as follows: The crime of Genocide, Crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Article 6 to 8 clearly defines some of these crimes. From the definitions, these are terrible crimes often committed as part of widespread attack directed against any civilian population. They are in form of multiple murders, serial rape and sexual slavery etc. In Article 76 bothering on issues of sentencing, we find that the severest


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