Nigeria: The death penalty as an ineffective deterrent to crime

The death penalty remains a legal sanction in Nigeria and continues to be imposed throughout the country, by judges in the high courts and sharia courts.

Convicted persons are sentenced to death by hanging. Murder, culpable homicide, armed robbery, treason, and conspiracy for treason are capital offences under the Penal Code Act and the Criminal Code Act. This violates Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A part of the political response to the high incidence of insecurity in Nigeria has been the introduction of new laws or amendments to existing laws making offences of kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling, and cultism punishable by death. As of 8 May 2023, 3,322 people were known to be under sentence of death. Despite the passage of such laws, kidnap for ransom and general insecurity continue to rise.

The briefing “Nigeria: Not a quick fix to insecurity: The death penalty as an ineffective deterrent to crime” shows that there is no convincing evidence to support the argument that the death penalty prevents crime more effectively than other punishments. To sustain the fight against insecurity, the underlying causes of insecurity need to be addressed broadly and a comprehensive crime prevention mechanism deployed rather than the quick fix approach that is not effective. The briefing contends that people found guilty of crimes following a trial that meets international fair trial standards should be held accountable but without recourse to the death penalty.

Download the report here.