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SALI Saving Lives - Strengthening the role of lawyers in the fight against the death penalty in Nigeria


While in 2013, 4 prisoners sentenced to death were executed by hanging in Benin prison (Edo State), marking the end of a moratorium on executions observed for the past 7 years, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in two groundbreaking judgments rendered on June 10, called for strict respect for the rules of fair trial and the rights of the defense in judicial proceedings leading to the pronouncement and execution of the death penalty.

Nigeria has more than 1,200 individuals on death row. Detention conditions were particularly worrisome, and torture was commonly used throughout the judicial chain.

The country's security situation was unstable, particularly in the northern states due to the presence of the Boko Haram movement.



The overall objectives of this project are to strengthen the moratorium on the death penalty, and to develop new jurisprudence on the rights of persons facing the death penalty, based on international standards.  
The specific objective is to reduce the number of people facing the death penalty, sentenced to death at trial, or definitively sentenced to death, - through the provision of free legal assistance, in 2 target states (Kaduna and Katsina).
Target states: Abuja, Benue, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Lagos and Plateau.


The implementation of free legal assistance to prisoners facing the death penalty or sentenced to death by a network of 8 lawyers will be based on the following activities:

  • Legal assistance: The 8 relay lawyers will provide free legal assistance to prisoners sentenced to death, as well as to prisoners awaiting trial and facing the death penalty (identification and follow-up of cases).

  • Awareness-raising: In each target state, awareness-raising conferences and round tables on the death penalty will be  organized with judicial and political actors and members of civil society.

  • Capacity building of lawyers: 8 relay lawyers are selected to carry out the legal aid activity: they will follow an initial training and then meet twice a year to work on the follow-up  cases. 

  • Advocacy: Communication and advocacy actions are organised, including the creation of a website, the broadcasting of radio spots and communication campaigns around emblematic cases.

  • Preparation and presentation of petitions before the African Commission or Court, and before the ECOWAS Court of Justice.


Legal aid

  • 96 prisoners facing the death penalty and 48 prisoners on death row received free legal aid.

  • 6 applications are filed before the ECOWAS Court of Justice or the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights.

Capacity Building for Lawyers

  • 6 practical workshops for the 8 bridge lawyers to share experiences and redefine the legal aid strategy


  • A kick-off conference organised at the beginning of the project

  • 400 representatives of local authorities and civil society were sensitized to issues related to the death penalty.

  • 640 judicial actors took part in practical workshops on the death penalty

  • A final conference organized at the end of the project presenting a report on the death penalty in Nigeria

Advocacy actions

  • A website allows the dissemination and exchange of the information collected during the project.

  • Regular meetings with authorities at the local and federal levels


  • Training of Nigerian lawyers to strengthen their skills in handling death penalty cases ;

  • Free legal aid provided by 7 local lawyers to more than 140 prisoners between 2011 and 2014;

  • Decision of the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) concerning emblematic cases of prisoners sentenced to death;

  • Awareness raising, capacity building and dissemination of practical tools to nearly 400 judicial and political actors on the death penalty, fair trial, and prison conditions;

  • Organization of a conference in Abuja, Nigeria in July 2014 to present the achievements of the project and the challenges encountered;

  • Information campaigns on alternatives to the death penalty, including participation in talk shows and radio jingles;

  • Organization of a conference in Paris on November 27, 2014 under the chairmanship of Robert Badinter, entitled: Fight against the death penalty, judicial strategy and feedback from Avocats Sans Frontières France in Nigeria. More than a hundred people were present at this event.

The success of the applications brought before the ECOWAS Court of Justice

This first case concerns the prohibition of the sentencing of a minor to capital punishment. 

Maimuna Abdulmumini is a young woman who was sentenced to death and then imprisoned with an infant for the alleged murder of her husband when she was only thirteen years old. The court ruled in June 2014 that the application of the death penalty against Maimuna, for a crime committed as a minor, constituted a violation of Article 6.5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nigeria is a party.

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

Mr. ThankGod Ebhos had been on death row for nearly 20 years and had been sentenced by a special court established by the military regime. In its June 2014 ruling, the court ordered Nigeria to remove Mr. ThankGod Ebhos from the death row list to protect him from the risk of execution while an appeal to the Edo State Court of Appeals is still pending. The Court ruled that any attempt to execute him before the outcome of the pending appeal would constitute a violation of Article 6.4 of the ICCPR. The governor of Kaduna State issued a release order in October 2014.

  • Case of Ms. Maimuna ABDULMINI 

    • Case of Mr. ThankGod EBHOS


Partners: National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Bar Association and Access to Justice
Cofinanced by: the French Development Agency, the Betto Seraglini Endowment Fund for International Justice, the European Union and the foundation Un monde par tous.

14th World Day Against the Death Penalty

Published on 10/10/2016
On the occasion of the World Day Against the Death Penalty, the director of the office of Avocats Sans Frontières France in Nigeria talks to us about the death penalty. 

Liberation of Maimuna Abdulmumini, "Free at last! ”

Published on 08/09/2016
After spending 3 years on death row, Maimuna Abdulmumini was released from Katsina prison after several legal battles.

“ To advance the abolitionist cause in Nigeria. ”

Published on 23/06/2016
Angela Uwandu spoke at the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, she looks back on this symbolic event.

ABOLITION NOW - 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Published on 20/06/2016
The ECPM association organizes every 3 years the World Congress against the Death Penalty in order to federate all the actors of the abolition (...)

Final decision in the Maimuna case

Published on 07/08/2015
Find the report of the final decision in the case of Maimuna Abdulmumini v/ the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Fight against the death penalty: going further

Published on 22/12/2014
More information on the death penalty in Africa :
  • Conference of November 27, 2014, Maison du Barreau de Paris : 
Conference on the fight against the death penalty, under the chairmanship of Robert Badinter and in the presence of the President of the Paris Bar Association, representatives of the organizations Amnesty International and Avocats Sans Frontières France, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and Mr. Lecuyer, Senior Lecturer HDR at the Faculty of Law of Angers and member of the International Institute of Human Rights.
  • The death penalty in Africa by Lionel Nkadji Njeukam

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