Abolish the death penalty, UK urges Nigeria


…As Gas leak sends 200 Indian children into hospital*** 

The UK Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Harriet Thompson, on Monday urged the Nigerian government to join the growing list of countries that have discarded capital punishment from their justice system.

The Press and Public Affairs Officer, British High Commission in Nigeria,  Joe Abuku indicated this in Abuja, on the occasion of commemorating the World Day Against Death Penalty, which is globally celebrated on Oct. 10 annually.

Thompson insisted that the use of the death penalty undermined human dignity in any case; pleading that the death penalty should be stopped to prevent the death of innocent individuals caught in the miscarriage of justice.

“It has been a long standing policy of the UK to completely oppose the death penalty in all circumstances for all crimes and that is because of the sanctity of human life.

“There is also no conclusive evidence of its deterrent value and we know that right across the world in all justice systems, miscarriages of justice do happen.

“When the death penalty has been acted, any miscarriage of justice becomes irreversible and irreparable and the impact on human life of that is truly devastating.

“Though some western democracies like the US still use the death penalty, I am pleased to say that there is a downward trend right across the world.

“We have about 141 countries that have either removed the death penalty from their statutes book or at least have in place a moratorium and are not actually implementing the death sentences.

“There are 57 countries that still retain the death penalty and Nigeria is one of them, but like me, my counterparts in countries across the world would be making similar calls for all of those countries that do retain the death penalty to move towards abolition.’’

Thompson said that as much as people saw the need to hand terrorist and mass murderers a death penalty, there was evidence that the penalty helped promote the cause of terrorist groups.

“Terrorism and mass murder are horrific crimes that have a huge impact on a large number of people’s lives; the people who lose their lives, all of their families and people who are injured as well.

“I don’t want to detract from the severity of those crimes but I suppose I would ask what the death penalty aims to achieve in those scenarios.

“The people who are carrying out those acts know that when if they are caught, they might be sentenced to death and indeed killed but it doesn’t stop them from carrying out those crimes.

“There is evidence to suggest that the imposition of the death penalty can actually help promote the cause of terrorist groups and generate many more to take their place as it fuels hatred, extremism and further escalates tensions.

She therefore urged the Nigerian government to take a lead in the movement against death penalties as a leading country in Africa.

“I would urge the Federal Government of Nigeria to join the trend and take a lead on this issue as a leader in Africa.

“We have moved from 21 countries in 1997 to 37 countries today across Africa that are already abolishing the death penalty in law or in practice.

“Nigeria should look at the evidence about the impact of the death penalty and recognise that it doesn’t constitute a deterrent effect in society,’’ she said.

In the meantime, around 200 children fell ill on Tuesday after inhaling a toxic gas emitted from a sugar mill located close to school premises in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, police said.

The students were immediately hospitalised after they complained of stomach ache, nausea and burning eyes.

The gas leak took place in Shamli district.

“Due to gas leakage today, 200 children of Shamli school fell sick but 175 have been discharged from the hospital,” a police official at state police control room said.

“At present, 23 children are in hospital and two have been referred to Panipat for specialised treatment.”

According to officials, sugar mill employees were putting chemicals in the waste to destroy it when the gas started emitting and spreading in the locality.

Local media reports put the number of children falling ill at around 300.

The government has ordered a probe into the incident and ordered Shamli district magistrate to ensure there remains no lapse in the treatment of the children affected by gas leak.

In May this year, around 200 students from a government-run school in Indian capital city were hospitalised following a gas leak from a container in the vicinity.