The Nigerian government has announced plans to execute all death row inmates in the country's prisons.
The governor of Abia state, Chief Theodore Orji, spoke on behalf of the government after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council in Abuja.
But human rights watchdog Amnesty International has criticized the decision as a flawed government's attempt to decongest the country's overflowing prisons.
In a statement, Amnesty says some of the condemned prisoners may not have received a fair hearing.
Gov. Orji denied the assertion, saying the constitution mandates governors to approve executions.
“These people who have been found guilty belong to those who committed crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping or allied offences, capital offences.They have gone through the due process of trial and they have been convicted to death, they have to be killed. And it is the responsibility of the different chief executives of the different states to execute them as per what the courts have pronounced on them,” he said.
Gov. Orji disputed Amnesty’s claim that some of the condemned prisoners did not have a fair trial. He said the prisoners were given several opportunities to defend themselves against the crime.
“You are dealing with human beings; you are dealing with a life, which is sacred. These people have undergone the process. They have lawyers who defended them, so it was vary transparent. They had all the opportunity to appeal against their execution. The final thing is that the judiciary has pronounced them to be executed. Someone has to do it,” he said.
However, human rights watchdog – Amnesty International faults the governor’s defense of the execution plans. Researcher Aster Van-Kregten said Nigeria had earlier pledged to halt all executions.
“Under the Nigerian law, it is the task of the governor’s to sign the death warrants, however the federal Minister of Foreign Affairs said in February last year that there was unofficial moratorium on executions – meaning that no governor would sign a death warrant because of the problems in Nigeria’s criminal justice system,” she said.
Van-Kregten said executions have never been a deterrent to crime and that the government should re-think its plans to carry out the plan.
“We ask the government of Nigeria to commute all death sentences to life imprisonment and to adopt an official moratorium to ensure that no one on death row will be executed."
She says the Nigerian judicial system has a lot of problems and the prisons are suffering from huge overcrowding which is not particularly caused by those on death row.