The Criminal Procedure Act and are criminal procedural laws when it comes to criminal offences and proceedings. Just like the Criminal Code Act and the Penal Code Acts, the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code apply to the Southern and Northern regions of Nigeria respectively. Though they do not prescribe punishment for criminal offences, they still provide the procedure in which punishments are to be executed including execution of death penalty in Nigeria.
Section 368(1) Criminal Procedure Act states that where sentence of death has been passed such sentence shall only be carried out in accordance to the decision of the court in Gano v .The State is that where the court merely pronounces the death penalty on an accused person without indicating the manner it is to be carried out, death by hanging should be presumed. This presumption exists because death by hanging is not the only acceptable mode of execution of death sentences.
However, section 1(3) of the Robbery and firearms (special Provisions) Act5 provides that the sentences of death imposed under this section may be executed by hanging the offender by the neck till he be dead or by causing such offender to suffer death by firing squad as the Governor may direct.
This provision of the Robbery and Firearms (special provisions) Act show that firing squad is also a valid mode of execution of the death penalty.
State legislations have made certain offences to be punishable by death sentence. This is because of the prevalence and menance of such offences in those states.
Within the South-South and South-East geopolitical zones for instance, many states have laws that prescribe death penalty for kidnappers. They include Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Imo, Abia,
Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi States. And on Friday October 18, 2013, Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo state went further by signing a law that amends the previous one (kidnapping Provision Law 2009).
This new kidnapping law also prescribes the death penalty as punishment to convicted offenders following the footsteps of the neighboring states.
These above mentioned legislations help support the legality and administration of the death penalty in Nigeria because the principle of nulla poena sine lege abound in the Nigerian legal system.
Jurisdiction of Courts to Entertain
The Death Penalty
For courts to be able to entertain a particular case there must be a law giving that court power to do so. This power is termed the jurisdiction of a court to entertain a matter. In technical term, jurisdiction of a court is the right in the court to hear and determine the dispute between (the) parties. Similarly, Dr. Ben O. Igwenyi defined jurisdiction thus:
Jurisdiction is the power or authority of a court of law or tribunal to go into a mater and deliver a binding judgment.
The synergy sprouting out from these succinct definitions is that jurisdiction in legal parlance consists in the competence, authority or power of a court including a tribunal, with matters in controversy, whether and or criminal or hybrid of both of them, submitted before it by parties there to from inception to judgment.
Coming down to the court system Nigeria operates a hierarchical court system where courts are divided into superior courts, inferior courts and special courts. These inferior courts have courts such as Magistrate court, Customary Court, District Court,
Area Court etc. the superior court, Court of Appeal, Federal High court, State High Court, High Court of Federal Capital Territory, National Industrial Court, Customary Court of Appeal and Sharia Court of Appeal. Special courts include Court Martial, Coroner’s Court and Juvenile Court. The inferior courts do not have jurisdiction to entertain capital offences because their power do not extend to it. The superior courts that have jurisdiction to entertain the death penalty are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the Federal High Court, the High Court of the federal Capital Territory and the state High court.
A Court Martial which is a special Court designed to try members of the Nigerian armed forces also have the jurisdiction to impose death sentence on convicted service men. Offences for which the death penalty may be prescribed by the Court Martial under the Armed Forces Act of Nigeria include aiding the enemy, communication with the enemy, cowardly behavior and mutiny.
Summarily, for service men who have committed any criminal offence mentioned in the Armed Forces Act, it is the Court Martial that tries and sentences them to death where applicable. But for ordinary citizens, it is the regular superior courts of record that have jurisdiction to try their cases where the offence in question is a capital offence.
Legal and Social Effects of Death Penalty
The effects of the death penalty are widespread and difficult to determine specifically. One problem with talking about the effects of the death penalty is that they vary across cultures and countries and may be different in specific cases or for specific Crimes. In general, it is believed that the death penalty can discourage crime but that in many cases it fails to play a role in whether a aim is committed there are many other consequences of the death penalty, including the emotional impact on executioners, the effect on prison populations when executions actually occur and the varied fallout on families of executed criminals.
When most people think of the ramifications of the death penalty, the question that is really being asked is whether crime is being reduced overall. This question can be answered only in regard to specific areas and only for specific time periods. One factor that is known to make the death penalty more effective as a crime deterrent is the rate of executions, with fast and frequent executions reducing crime. Unfortunately, executing many people has other ethical and social effects as well, which may not be worth a superficial reduction in crime.
There are also other ways to think about the consequences of the death penalty. For example, living in an area where the death penalty is used to punish offenders makes people think about certain crimes differently. Perhaps given that each institution of the death penalty is necessarily different, the effects will always be different in each case.
Other ways of looking at this issue might include the ethical; social and economic effects when compared to the cost of housing prisoners, for example, has an impact on the prison system overall. Philosophically, whether or not a nation has the right to put a person to death can affect areas of legislation as well. Socially, it is possible to look at whether the execution of a criminal family member has a positive or negative effect on the family, and the results often go either way.
Given the gravity of the type of punishment the consequences of actually putting a prisoner to death are often different than the effects of the more existence of the death penalty. Knowing that there is a death penalty, for example, is often enough to deter some people from committing a crime. Actually putting a prisoner to death affects everyone involved in the process psychologically, although not always in a negative way. There are many additional ramifications of the death penalty as well, and generalizations and statistics do not always reflect the actual experienced effects in any individual situation.
Finally, it is argued by Sustain and vermeil that death penalty may be morally required not for retributive reasons, but in order to prevent the taking of innocent lives.