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Death Penalty: Civil Society Groups Urge Him Not To Sign NDLEA Amendment Act

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – As Nigeria joins other nations to mark the 2024 international world Drug day, no fewer than 275 Civil Society groups and networks working on drugs, health,  human rights and justice issues in the country  have sent an Open Letter to President Ahmed Bola Tinubu, urging him to reject and ensure the removal  of “Death Penalty for Drug Offences” as contained in the Bill for an Act to amend the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency NDLEA Act, 2004 (HB.472). 

The Open Letter is part of a national advocacy action by the Civil Society Organisations and networks to mark and celebrate the 2024 World Drug Day, which is held globally on June 26 every year. 

It would be recalled that on May 9, 2024, the Nigeria Senate passed an amendment to the NDLEA Act Cap N30 of the Laws of the Federal of Nigeria 2004 approving and reintroducing “Death Penalty” as punishment for drug offences in Nigeria. 

The proposed capital punishment also applies also to the “cooking, preparation, trafficking, and dealing in or delivery of hard drugs by any means” in Nigeria.

According to the group, “As a leading democratic nation in Africa, it is our strong opinion that the action of the National Assembly by enacting another“Militarized”, “Fiercest” and  Draconian” Drug Law in Africa is very Retrogressive and Repressive  and Should  never be supported  and accepted by you or the President. 

“However, we all recognized that the world drug problem is complex and multifaceted and that the challenges posed by drugs have wideranging adverse impact on security, human rights and development. 

“This underscores that the multifaceted nature of the problem requires a comprehensive approach that includes law enforcement efforts ensuring people’s security and efforts in promoting health, human rights, including equality and nondiscrimination, and sustainable development. 

“Therefore, the Federal government should commit to promoting a truly evidence based and balanced approach, whereby sufficient attention is given to measures that address the root causes of drug abuse and cultivation and other involvement in the drug trade. 

“The promotion adoption of public health and human rights approaches to drug control response is the best global practice not reintroduction and imposition of a death penalty in the drug law of Nigeria. 

“As stated by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “death penalty should be abolished for all crimes, including for drug offences, and law enforcement in drug control efforts should be consistent with States’ human rights obligations”. 

“Also, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has also explicitly stated its opposition to the application of the death penalty for drug offences. In a 2010 

Report, the UNODC Executive Director wrote that: “As an entity of the United Nations system, UNODC  advocates the abolition of the death penalty and calls upon Member States to follow international standards concerning prohibition of the death penalty for offences of a drug-related or purely economic nature”. 

 “As stated in the Open Letter to Mr. President, that introduction of death penalty for drug offences in the Bill for an Act to amend the NDLEA Act, 2004 (HB.472) contradicts the ongoing implementation of Harm Reduction Program of the Federal Ministry of Health for persons who inject or dependent on drugs, as part of the public health response to the drug addressing drug related harm and the burden of HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and Opioid Overdose management and prevention strategy. 

“Hence; the enforcement of the Bill if signed into law will have a great negative impact on the provision of drug treatment, rehabilitation and harm reduction services to dependent drug users due to fear of imprisonment. It Will place a great and significant pressure on the already overburdened criminal justice system in Nigeria. 

The letter made available to Our Correspondent was signed onbehalf of the organizations by Okereke  Chinwuke  ESQ.  Founder and CEO, African  Law Foundation (AFRILAW), Abuja, and National Focal  Point, West African Drug Policy Network (WADPN) Nigeria  Chapter, and

Mrs. Alao -Amiola Oluwafisayo, Eexecutive Durective., Youth  Initiative For Drug Research Information Support  and  Education  (YOUTHRISE) Nigeria Abuja.

“People incarcerated for drug offenses account for a substantial percentage of prisoners in Nigeria, and this highly negate the purpose and goal of enactment and the implementation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 by the Federal Ministry of Justice in advancing justice sector reform and addressing prison overcrowding and over incarceration, including alternatives to incarceration and applying the principle of proportionality. 

“In this regard, the 275 Nigeria Civil Society Organizations and Networks are hereby appealing and requesting that Mr. President should as a matter of urgent public interest: Firstly, object, reject,  and ensure  the removal  of “Death penalty  for drug  Offences ”from the approved Bill for an Act to amend the NDLEA Act CAP, N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (HB.472); 

Secondly, not  to  assent to the Bill for an Act to amend the NDLEA Act, CAP, N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 (HB.472) without the removal of the “Death Penalty for Drug Offences” by the National Assembly;

Thirdly, “take action to ABOLISH DEATH PENALTYfor all crimes and commuting all death sentences to terms of imprisonment in Nigeria including establishment of AN OFFICIAL MORATORIUM ON EXECUTIONS in Nigeria. 

“Take action to ensure that criminal justice system for drug law enforcement is sufficiently resourced and capable of investigating crimes effectively including supporting victims and ensuring that drug offenders have a fair trial without recourse to the death penalty;  Also, “Take action to reform and/or harmonize all Nigeria drug laws on the basis of existing and  emerging minimum health and human rights standards, and advance drug policies that address social inequalities and root causes of drug related issues, as well as promote non-stigmatizing attitudes that deter access to drug treatment, rehabilitation and harm reduction services; 

They added that he should “Take action toward decriminalization of drug use and low-level non-violent drug offences as a means to reduce the enormous pressures on overburdened criminal justice systems and protect Nigeria citizens from further harms, and adoption of Alternatives to Imprisonment for low-level drug offences/offenders and people dependent on drugs.

“Take action to ensure the integration and adoption of evidence-based, balanced, public health and human rights approaches to drug control and law enforcement in Nigeria. 



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