This Day Lagos
By Stanley Nkwazema
Abuja - Baring any last minute hitches, some lawmakers have concluded plans to present a bill before the House of Representatives seeking to abolish the controversial death penalty from the nation's statute books.
Three lawmakers fro Edo State including former Speaker of the Edo State House of Assembly, Honourable Friday Itulah, Honourable Samson Osagie and Honourable Patrick Ikhariale who are proposing a "Bill for an Act to Amend the Criminal Code Act Cap. C38, Robbery and Fire Arms (Special Provisions) Act Cap R11 and theArmed Forces Act Cap. A20 Laws of the Federation want to substitute death penalty with life imprisonment.
The bill, expected to be tabled on the floor of the House by Honourable Itulah this week, will however not seek to abolish state laws, but would seek amendment to the Federal enactment to abolish capital punishment or outrightly expunge death sentences from penal laws made by the National Assembly.
Lead sponsor of the bill, Itulah, while explaining the final details of the the Bill to members of the House, said as soon as the National Assembly expunges capital punishment from its statutes book, the various State Houses of Assembly would either follow suit or take steps to domesticate the one that has been passed by the National Assembly.
He argued that death penalty did not serve the tripartite purpose of reformation, retribution and deterrence that punishment ought to engender. "The idea behind the policy of reformationis that a convict should or ought to be reformed to enable him to become a more useful person in the society.
The question is can you reform a person that is sentenced to death? "The idea behind the policy of retribution is to inflict severe punishment for something seriously wrong that somebody has done. In this country, people have been sentenced to death for offences that did not involve the taking of life of another", he said. "People have been sentenced to death for offences such a smutiny, trafficking in currencies, treasonable felony, etc."
This policy erroneously assumes that that all persons convicted of these serious crimes committed the offences but people are sometimes punished in error for offences they never committed. The emphasis all over the world today is to stop spilling blood where it can be helped,"he argued, citing the instance of Rwanda which abolished death penalty in 2007 and the fact that no civilian governor had endorsed execution of criminals since 1999", he argued.On the policy of capital punishment as deterrent, thesponsor of the Bill averred that the killing of convict would not serve the purpose but rather made criminals more vicious and hardened in their activities. He therefore observed that what would reduce heinous crimeswas not the letting of more blood but a "change ofour attitude and re-orientation, saying, "Human life is sacred and it should not be summarily taken through violent crimes or through the instrument of law." Government, he stated, should pay more attention to thereformation of criminals rather than committing them to death adding "when such criminals are rehabilitated, they are likely to become good and useful citizensof this nation".