The Federal Government of Nigeria has admitted that it will abide by the decision of the ECOWAS Court of Justice stopping it from further executing criminals on death row.
The position of the government was announced by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, SAN, at the parley the government had in Abuja with the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights yesterday.
At the bilateral meeting of the Nigerian government and the UN human rights body, Adoke told the team that came on assessment of the nation’s anti same sex marriage as it affects the rights of the citizens that there is a subsisting decision of the ECOWAS court that restrains the nation from carrying on with capital punishment or death penalty.
But regarding the same sex law, the FG told UN that the law was enacted after consultations with Nigerians of varied cultural leanings and religious orientations, and since 92 per cent of the population said the practice is alien to the peoples of Nigeria and offensive to their cultures, the nation adopted the law as a very popular one and does not see it in anywhere as an infringement of the rights of citizens.
Adoke addressed the UN team led by Madam Navi Pillay and explained that since the ECOWAS Court which Nigeria state is signatory to has made the restraining order, it has no option than to obey it.
But he explained that the nation is a federal state and as such the jurisdiction and execution of order of death sentence does not reside in the federal government, but the state governments where the sentences are handed down and who have the powers for the ultimate execution of the sentence.
He explained that although every death sentence is validated only when the convict must have exhausted all legal remedies up to the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court, yet no convicted criminal is executed until a state governor where the initial trial commenced and that has the jurisdiction to commence, continue or discontinue prosecution signs the death warrant.
After the sentence, no convict is executed until the governor signs the death warrant, and the federal nature of the nation does not empower the FG to interfere with that process until after due consultations with the states to necessitate a review of the law.
Adoke coached that: “I must however observe that the ECOWAS Court of Justice has recently granted an Injunction restraining the Nigerian Government from carrying out the execution of condemned persons and directing the Government to continue to abide by its commitment to the Moratorium against the death penalty. We shall respect this order by the court, even as we continue with our national dialogue on the abolition or retention of the penalty.
“By the political structure of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, death penalty is within the jurisdiction of the various state governments. However, Section 33 (1) of the Constitution provides that every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life save in the execution of a sentence of a court in criminal matters. Both the Criminal and Penal Codes of the various States provide death sentence for any person who commits murder or culpable homicide and therefore, death penalty is a valid part of Nigerian Law, “ he explained.
As the leader of government delegation to the Human Rights Council review of Nigeria under the Universal Periodic review mechanism in October last year, I observed that most of the council members expressed concerns on the death penalty in Nigeria and also the passage of the Same Sex Prohibition Law which has since been assented to by the president.
Likewise, “on the Anti-Same Sex Marriage Act I wish to re-emphasise that our laws do not criminalise individual sexual orientation. The focus of the Act is therefore the discouragement of same-sex marriage which is a reflection of the overwhelming beliefs and cultural values of the Nigerian people as demonstrated by a 2013 Opinion Poll which showed that 92% of Nigerians reject same-sex marriage.”
He in conclusion clarified thanked the UN for the deployment of a Human Rights Advisor to the country and who helped in the preparation for the UPR review, in revitalising the Inter Ministerial Committee on Treaty Reporting as well as facilitating the assignment of the National Committee Against Torture. I look forward to the technical support of your office in implementing the agreed work plan of both bodies.”