Nigeria has been ranked second in the world after China in recorded death sentences in 2016.
Africa’s most populous nation handed down a total of 527 death sentences in 2016, three times more than the previous year.
This was disclosed by Amnesty International, a human rights group, in its annual global report on the death penalty released on Tuesday.
“Information provided by the Nigerian Prisons Service to Amnesty International showed that 527 people were sentenced to death in 2016,” the report stated.
“The Nigerian Prisons Service also reported that 33 were granted pardon, 32 death row prisoners were exonerated and 1,979 people were on death row, including five foreign nationals. During the year, a total of 105 death sentences were commuted.”
AI’s report revealed that three people were executed in Nigeria in 2016, the first execution since 2013. The executions were carried out in Benin Prisons in Edo State.
Going by the ranking, Nigeria is only better than China, a country that shrouds its executions in secrecy.
Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt are ranked third, fourth and fifth with 360, 245 and 237 death sentences respectively to complete the top five countries in the world with the largest number of death sentences in 2016
The only African countries close in ranking to Nigeria are Egypt and Cameroon which are in the fifth and seventh positions respectively.
Excluding China, states around the world executed 1,032 people in 2016. China executed more than all other countries in the world put together, while the USA reached a historic low in its use of the death penalty in 2016.
In sub-Saharan Africa, fewer executions were recorded but the number of death sentences more than doubled, largely due to a steep rise in Nigeria.
At least 22 executions were carried out in five countries — Botswana, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia.
In Nigeria, the death penalty is imposed for a vast array of crimes, including armed robbery, murder, mutiny and the latest being kidnapping. Methods of executions include hanging, shooting and stoning.
Some northern states practice sharia law, which imposes capital punishment for adultery, rape and homosexuality among other vices.
The upsurge in death sentences in these parts can be traced to the widespread resurgence of kidnappings and other crimes in the country’s oil-producing south and the ongoing fight against Boko Haram terrorists in the northeast.
Nigeria’s Senate had in May last year agreed to begin a process for the enactment of a law that would prescribe capital punishment for kidnappers across the country.
Several state governments, such as Oyo in 2016 and Lagos, have already introduced such legislation.
Kidnapping for ransom, which had declined in recent years, has recently increased as Nigerians face a recession caused by the crash in global oil prices.
The use of death penalty in Nigeria has generated mixed opinions among people in the country. Some people say this form of punishment violates the human right to life and could be wrongly applied on the innocent while others see it as a way to remove hardened criminals from the public without incurring cost of incarceration.
In recent years, there have been protests and calls from reputable organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for the abolition of capital punishment.
In October 2014, former Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, pardoned three inmates on death row, following the recommendations by the State Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy.