The government has been urged to abolish capital punishment and commute all death sentences to life imprisonment. This position was canvassed yesterday in Port Harcourt by a group called Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE-Nigeria) after it visited several prisons across the country.
The group pointed out, that the justice system in the country is flawed and lacks basic elements to guarantee justice, warning that capital punishment might lead to death of innocent persons.
Executive Director of the group, Sylvester Uhaa, also disagreed with those who argued that capital punishment deters others from committing crime. He said, research based evidence has proven that yo be untrue
He stated: “We call on Nigeria to abolish capital punishment and commute all death sentences to life imprisonment and release death row inmates who have shown remorse or who are too old and too frail to cause harm to others”.
Uhaa said the call became necessary going by the prison situations in the country which is characterised by overcrowding, poor feeding, inadequate access to healthcare, poor access to justice and dehumanising conditions in which prisoners live.
He disclosed that out of 74,508 prisoners in Nigeria, 50,427 are awaiting trial ,representing 67 percent , thereby making Nigeria the fifth country with the highest awaiting trial population in Africa.
Uhaa warned that the move by government to build more prisons , recruit more police, increase security budgets and buy more arms for law enforcement agencies as a way to reduce crime is false and should be rejected as it does not serve the common interest.
He however , urged government to rather than expand the prisons, invest in education, health , and other social and economic welfare programs as that would help reduce crime and other social vices in the country.
“We strongly oppose the building of new 3000 capacity prisons in each geo-political zone because doing so without addressing the root causes of the rising crime rate in Nigeria will not solve the problem and the new prisons will soon be filled up with awaiting trial inmates and then we will need to build bigger ones,and then bigger ones;this will lead to prison expansion and mass incarceration in the country “.he stated.
The Executive Director, also noted that reducing the number of pre-trial detainees will solve prison overcrowding, limit the spread of disease , reduce poverty and spur development.
According to him, “The present cohort of over 50,000 pre-trial detainees is a terrible waste of human potential that comes at a considerable cost to a country like Nigeria that is struggling to provide access to education, health, water, housing , pay work force and improve basic infrastructure. The money used to feed innocent people in prison can be used to renovate the schools, pay pension and provide electricity “ He argued.