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Amnesty International Condemns Nigeria’s Intention to Punish Drug Traffickers with the Death Penalty.

Amnesty International Condemns Nigeria’s Intention to Punish Drug Traffickers with the Death Penalty.

Amnesty International and human rights activists in Nigeria are criticizing a new bid put forward by Nigerian lawmakers to punish drug trafficking with the death penalty. The move has divided the country’s lawmakers in Abuja, many of whom support the measure as part of the “War Against Drugs”.

Timothy Obiezu for VOA

23 May 2024 at 11:00:00

This report from Voice of America, published through AllAfrica on 15 May 2024.


The proposed measure is part of authorities' efforts to escalate a crackdown on drug abuse and trafficking.

The law, if passed, would allow judges to issue the death sentence to people convicted of producing, supplying or selling narcotics. Currently, the maximum sentence is life in prison.


The Nigerian Senate adopted the bill on Thursday, 9 May 2024, despite opposition by some lawmakers who raised concerns about the possibility of wrongly sentencing and executing an innocent person.


Human rights group Amnesty International also criticized the new measure. Aminu Hayatu is a researcher for the human rights group.


"It's a regressive legislative attempt by the Nigerian lawmakers. Once someone's life has ended, they have lost the opportunity to live to tell the truth. We also need to look at the history of our prosecutions over time. There have been quite a number of mistakes. In Nigeria, Amnesty International has had a persistent call against [the] death penalty. And apart from that, the worldwide campaign against that is actually in line with the promotion of human rights," said Hayatu.


But not every voice is against the bill. Supporters say the law could prove to be a more effective deterrent compared to a life sentence.


Ibrahim Abdullahi is the founder of Muslim Media Watch Group, one of the organizations supporting the bill.


"It seems as if the punishment as contained in the law that we have presently [has] not served as deterrent enough. Luckily, over 20 countries across the whole world made [the] death penalty as the punishment for drug trafficking. So, if Nigeria follows suit, it's not too much. So, I see it as a very good step to serve as [a] deterrent to peddlers of drugs," he said.


The Nigerian Senate and House of Representatives must approve the amendment before it can be sent to the president to sign into law.


The country is seeing an increasing trend of drug abuse and has in recent years gone from being a transit country to a hub of the drug trade.


Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency says over 14 million Nigerians use illegal drugs. The majority use locally-grown cannabis, but many others use cocaine, heroin, or amphetamine-type stimulants.


The drug trade is often fueled by lack of legitimate economic opportunities.


Abdullahi said besides adding the death penalty, corruption should also be addressed.


"You can't fight drug addiction without fighting corruption. Now that this law is about to be promulgated, more stringent laws should be made to fight corruption in Nigeria so that officers who are guilty of taking bribes to conceal crimes or not to prosecute diligently will also be dealt with seriously. So, as we fight drug trafficking, we should fight the attendant corruption," he said.


More than 3,000 Nigerians are on death row for various offenses -- the highest number in the world. Rights activists have been campaigning to change that and compel authorities to abolish the death penalty.


But they say proposing the death penalty for more offenses only makes matters worse.

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