Nigeria : Fight against death penalty

SALI "SAving LIves" : Renforcement du rôle des avocats dans la lutte contre la peine de mort au Nigeria (janv. 2011 - janv. 2014)




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In 2013, 4 prisoners facing death penalty were executed by hanging in Benin's prison (Edo State). It marked the end of a 7 years- moratory on acknowledged executions.  In the meantime, the Justice Court of the Economic Community Of West African State (ECOWAS) called, through two innovative rulings given on june 10th, for the strict respect of fair trial and right to defense rule, in the context of judicial procedures leading to the decision or the execution of death penalty.

Nigeria gathers more than 1 200 individuals waiting on death row. Detention conditions are particularly worrying and torture is commonly used throughout the judicial chain. 

The security situation of the country is volatile, notably in Northern States because of Boko Haram presence.


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Global objective: to reinforce the moratory on death penalty, and to craft a new jurisprudence on the rights of people facing death penalty, on the basis of international standars. 

Specific objective: to reduce the number of people facing death penalty, condemned to death penalty during a trial, or definitively condemned to death penalyt, - by setting up a free judicial assistance, in two targeted States (Kaduna et Katsina).

Targeted countries : Abuja, Benue, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Lagos and Plateau.

Etats cibles SALI



Free judicial assistance implementation for detainees facing or potentially facing death penalty by a network of 8 focal-point lawyers :

Judicial assistance : 

  • 8 focal point lawyers provided a free judicial assistance to the prisoners facing death penalty, as well as to the prisoners awaiting trial and potentially facing death penalty (identification and case monitoring). 

Sensibilisation :

  • In each targeted State, sensibilisation conferences and roundtables tackling death penalty were held in cooperation with judiciary and political actors, and civil society members.  

Lawyers capabilities reinforcement :

  • 8 focal-point lawyers were selected to provide the judicial assistance activity: they followed an initial training, then met twice a year to work on case-monitoring. 

Advocacy : 

  • Communication and advocacy actions were organized with notably the creation of a website, the diffusion of radio spots and communication campaigns on emblematic cases. 

Claims preparation and presentation :

  • Before the Commission or the African Court, and before the ECOWAS Justice Court.



expected results

Judicial assistance : 

  • 96 prisoners risking death penalty and 48 facing death penalty benefited from a free judicial assistance. 
  • 6 request were made before the Justice Court of ECOWAS or the African Court on Human and People's Rights.

Lawyers capabilities reinforcement : 

  • 6 workshops for the 8 focal-point lawyers in order to promote experience-sharing and redefine judicial assistance strategy. 

Raising awareness:

  • Opening conference before the start of the project
  • 400 local authorities and civil society representants made aware of the death penalty issue. d
  • 640 judicial actors took part to workshops on death penalty. 
  • Closing conference organised at the end of the project and presenting a report on death penalty in Nigeria. 

Advocacy : 

  • A website allows to diffuse and share collected information during the project. 
  • Regular meetings with local and federal authorities. 


achievments 2

  • Nigerian lawyers training to help strenghtening capacities when handling death penalty cases; 
  • Free judicial assistance provided by 7 local lawyers to more than 140 prisoners between 2011 and 2014;
  • ECOWAS Jutisce Court decision concerning emblematic cases of prisoners facing death penalty; 
  • Sensibilisation, capacities-reinforcement and practical tools diffusion among about 400 judicial and political actors on the subject of death penalty, fair trial and detention conditions;  
  • Organisation of a conference in Abuja, Nigeria, in July 2014 in order to present the project's achievements and the challenges met; 
  • Information campaign on alternatives to death penalty, notably by taking part to talk shows and radio spots ; 
  • Organisation of a conference in Paris on November, 27, 2014 under the presidency of Robert Badinter, intitled : "Fight against Death Penalty, Judicial strategy and  experience-sharing with Avocats Sans Frontières France in Nigeria". Over a hundred persons were there for this event.  




Claims made before the EWOWAS Justice Court 

  • Case Madame Maimuna ABDULMINI 

This first case concerns the prohibition of the death penalty sentence for a juvenile. 

Maimuna Abdulmumini is a young lady condemned to death penalty, then put in jail with a baby, for the presumed murder of her husband when she was only 13 years old. The Court declared in june 2014 that sentencing Maimuna to death for a crime she commited when she was a juvenile is a violation of article 6.5. of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which the country is party. 

  • Case Monsieur ThankGod EBHOS

This second case concerns the right to appeal a sentence to death. 

Mister Ebhos had been on death row since 20 years, after a being sentenced by a special tribunal established by the military regime. In its June 2014 ruling, the Court directed Nigeria to withdraw Mister Ebhos from the list of the persons sentenced to death in order to prevent his execution whilst an appeal before Edo's State Appeal Court was still pending. The Court ruled that any execution attempt before the outcome of the appeal process would be a violation of ICCPR 6.4 article. Kaduna States' governor issued an order for release in october 2014.



Cofunded by: the Agence Française de Développement, Endowment Fund Betto Seraglini for International Justice, the European Union and the Foundation Un monde par tous.

    AFD     betto seraglini Union Européenne fondation un monde par tous




 National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Bar Association and Access to Justice

HR Commission    NBA Logo    Access to justice


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