Headline: Press Statement on the Sad Return of Capital Punishment in Nigeria

Posted on: 2013-06-28

Most Reverend Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Oyo State

Reports about the recent execution of some prisoners whose appeals are still pending in court in Edo State of Nigeria are simply an unfortunate perversion of justice. By these executions Nigeria, the most populous black nation on earth may once again have been plunged back into the dark ages of military rule and cast down to the bottom rung on the index of human rights violations in the world. The Edo State government may have been encouraged by the recent call of President Goodluck Jonathan to State Governors to sign the death warrants of criminals in their states. Nigeria\'s Senate President, David Mark has also allegedly advocated the death penalty for oil theft in the country. The fact that President Jonathan, the Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomole and the Senate President David Mark are Christians leaves more than a sour taste in the mouth.
The speed at which Nigerian leaders want to adopt the death penalty as a solution to the nationís problems is very distressing. Most civilized countries of the world have either suspended or abandoned capital punishment and rightly so. The Catholic Church recognises and teaches the dignity and inviolability of human life, as a God-given right which no human being or government can rightly take away. All authentic Christians also believe this as the law of Almighty God. The Bible teaches God\'s commandment; \"Thou shall not kill\" and an eye for an eye can only make the entire world go blind.
This teaching is posited on the fact that all men and women are created in the image and likeness of God himself. This identification with the creator cannot be alienated, no matter how twisted and depraved the human being may become. God alone is the source and destination of human life and he alone has the right to take it away. The Church also teaches that no human being, no matter how depraved and sinful he may be should be denied the possibility of conversion and change.
Nigeria has in recent years suffered much violence and destruction of human life. Many precious lives are wasted due to huge security challenges of terrorism, armed robbery, communal clashes, fatal air and road crashes, suicides, pipeline fires and others. The country surely does not at this moment need government to add to this huge haemorrhage of lives in the name of sanitising the society. Nigerians have been brutalized enough by daily news of death and bloodshed.
The firmness with which President Goodluck Jonathan made the call for the death penalty is itself a cause for worry. The President would do better to show such concern and firmness of purpose in the fight against corruption and violent crimes and in the provision of employment in the various states. Why, one is provoked to ask, would President Jonathan grant a national pardon to convicted politicians whose nefarious acts have caused the death of multitudes in Nigeria, offer amnesty to terrorists and militants who destroy lives and property on a mega scale and then execute powerless, jailed criminals who simply have no way of escaping the arms of the law? What an aberration of justice! The action of government can only be explained as an attempt to score political points with public opinion already critical of the security situation in parts Nigeria so as to be seen to be \"doing something drastic\". It appears borne out of a sense of frustration which has found a scapegoat in execution of prisoners but cutting one\'s head is not the remedy for dandruff.
Government should find more effective ways to reduce crime in Nigeria by creating employment for the populace, establishing a culture of accountability, taking better care of police affairs and enforcing the rule of law in the nation. It has no business reinforcing the encroaching culture of death by using the apparatus of the state to kill its own citizens. No nation on earth is statistically known to have reduced crime and criminality through capital punishment. Human life is unique, sacred and irreplaceable and should not be toyed with by those elected to protect it. The executions in Edo State should be condemned by every right thinking human being and organization everywhere. Government at all levels should jettison the death penalty as an option for crime control and the national assembly should speedily expunge any justification found for it in the Nigerian constitution if Nigeria as a country is to ever lay legitimate claim to civility and decency.