Under the Nigerian Criminal Justice System, different forms of punishment are used on offenders as a form of deterring them from furthering their crime commission. This assertion, however, is subject to the provisions of the Criminal Code Act which states that no person shall be liable to be tried or punished in any court in Nigeria for an offence, except under the express provisions of the code or some Act or law which is in force in, or forms part of the law of Nigeria.
The various forms of punishment available under the Nigerian law are as follows:
1. Corporal Punishment: the corporal punishment is a form of sentence for crime under the Nigeria law.
The Criminal Code provides for coming as a sentence for crime.
A male person under 17 can be ordered to be caned in lieu of or in addition to any other punishment. This aged 17 are liable to caning as are adults for certain sexual and violent crimes; whipping is also a lawful sentence.
The Criminal Procedure Code governs how caning is to be carried out up to 12 strokes with light rod or cane or birch.
The Sharia Penal Codes adopted in Northern states also provide for hard punishment for offences such as zina, rape, sodomy, drinking alcohol, defamation and injurious false hood. However, corporal punishment is presumably prohibited as a disciplinary measure for children in penal institutions. The Child Rights Act states that “no child shall be ordered to be subjected to corporal punishment”.
On the other hand, the Children and Young Persons Act (applicable to children between the ages of 7 and 17) states that a court may order a Juvenile to be whipped.
2. Fine: The Criminal Code provides for fine as punishment for crime.
Offenders are awarded fine based on the gravity of their offences. Fine can be combined with corporal punishment or imprisonment. The issue of fine is usually related to misdemeanors and simple offences. Section 382 of the Criminal Procedure Act and section 23 of the Criminal Procedure Code Provide for the power of a court to impose fine in lieu of imprisonment. In Price Control Board V Ezema, it was held that even when the law creating an offence provides that the accused shall be sentenced without option of fine, the court still has discretion to impose fine. But when a law provides for the minimum period of imprisonment to be imposed for the commission of an offence, the court cannot impose fine in lieu of imprisonment.
The Criminal Procedure Act also provides that the high courts have the discretion in the amount of fine they can impose. However, any term of imprisonment imposed in default of payment of the fine shall not exceed two years. In the case of magistrate courts, the fine a magistrate can impose shall exceed the limit of the scale provided for the offence by the relevant law establishing the magistrate court or any other law.
Under the Criminal Procedure code, before a convicted accused can be imprisoned in default of payment of fine, the court may order the attachment of his movable and immovable properties. If the properties attached cannot satisfy the fine, the accused may be imprisoned subject to the limit contained in section 74 of the penal code. However, in Goke v. Police, the court warned that in imposing fine, the trial court must consider the ability of the offender to pay the fine.
Under section 382 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Act and section 23(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code respectively, a term of imprisonment imposed in default of payment of fine shall not exceed the maximum term authorized as punishment for the offence.
More so, before an accused convicted can be imprisoned in default of payment of fine, the court may do any of the following:
a) Issue a warrant of commitment.
b) Allow time, that is, days of grace, for the payment of the fine.
c) Direct payment of fine to be made by installment; and
d) Provide security either with or without sureties for the payment of fine.
3) Forfeiture: When any person is convicted of an offence stated in Article 98, 98A, 98B, 99, 112, 117,124, 128 or 494, the court may in addition to or in lieu of any penalty which may be imposed, order the forfeiture to the state of any property which has passed in connection with the commission of the offence or of such property cannot be forfeited or cannot be found of such sum as the court shall assess as the value of such property, and any property or sum so forfeited shall be dealt with in such manner as the Governor may direct. Payment of sum so ordered to be forfeited may be enforced in the same manner and subject to the same incidents as in the case of a fine.
Criminal Justice System: The court may in addition to or in lieu of any penalty which may be imposed, order the forfeiture of any personal property which has been used in the commission of the offence or in respect of which the offence has been committed and may order such property to be destroyed or otherwise dealt with as it may seem fit.
4) Sentence of Imprisonment:
Where a sentence may be either with hard labour or without hard labour. Normally, where no specific order is giving as to whether it is with hard labour or not, the imprisonment must be with hard labour.
A sentence of imprisonment takes effect from and includes the whole of the date on which it was pronounced. It is important to note that a court can replace a sentence of imprisonment with a fine or combine a sentence of imprisonment with fine.
Under the Criminal Procedure Act, a court may impose a suspended sentence, in which case the sentence shall not commence immediately, but shall commence on any day not exceeding 3 months after the date of the sentence.
5) Death Sentence: when the accused is convicted on a charge of capital offence, the court has no discretion but to impose maximum punishment, which is death sentence. The death sentence can be by hanging the offender by the neck till he is dead. Section 367 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Act provides for the manner in which a death sentence which, in tandem with the pronouncement of Fabiyi J. C. A. in Akinyemi V. State goes thus –
The sentence of the court upon you is that you be hanged by the neck until you be dead and may the Lord have mercy on your soul.
In Olowoyeku V. State, it was held that failure to pronounce death sentence in the above words would not affect the sentence.
It is important to note that pregnant women, women with nursing children, lunatics and young persons are exempted from serving the death sentence.