Activists uncover secret executions in Nigeria
In a joint statement released at the end of December, World Coalition member organisation Amnesty International (AI) and 17 Nigerian human rights organisations said they had uncovered evidence of at least seven executions by hanging in the last two years.
The revelation came just one month after a Nigerian government representative at the UN spoke about the death penalty in Nigeria. “Punishment only comes after exhaustive legal and judicial processes, including recourse to the supreme court of the land,” he said. He added: “It is thus on record that we have not carried out any capital punishment in recent years in Nigeria.”
But human rights activists have established that several prisoners were executed before they had access to proper legal representation and appeal procedures.
The investigation started when AI, who was conducting a prison visit mission in Nigeria in 2007, heard rumours about covert executions. It then teamed up with local NGOs to research the issue.
Work on the ground
“They did the work on the ground”, said AI’s Nigeria researcher Aster van Kregten. “They went to the prisons, were able to see the registers and saw that the cause of death was judicial execution”, she added.
The authorities in Kano state, where the executions took place, acknowledged the facts but denied any attempt to hide the executions. “I don’t know what secrecy Amnesty is talking about,” said Kano’s justice commissioner Aliyu Umar. “Legal executions anywhere in the world are carried out within the confines of prisons in the same way these seven executions were carried out,” he added.
AI called on Nigeria to impose an immediate moratorium on executions. Aster van Kregten said that the organisation has written to Nigeria’s federal government and expects an answer shortly.
AI is continuing to investigate to confirm the names of all those executed and the dates of the executions.
Illustration: drawing depicting life on death row in Enugu prison, Nigeria, by former inmate Arthur Judah Angel
© Arthur Judah Angel