Nigerian Senate Approves Death Penalty For Drug Traffickers

by Ohepo Ohepo

In a significant move on Thursday, May 9, the Nigerian Senate approved a stringent new measure in the battle against drug trafficking, endorsing the death penalty for those convicted of the offense. This decision marks a drastic shift from the current legislation under the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) Act, which sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty.

The decision came during the Senate’s consideration of the NDLEA Act (Amendment) Bill, 2024, presented by Senator Mohammed Monguno, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights & Legal Matters. The bill aims to revise the list of controlled substances, enhance the operational capabilities of the NDLEA, modify penalties, and authorize the creation of specialized laboratories.

A critical amendment was made to Section 11 of the existing act, which previously stated that persons involved in importing, manufacturing, or dealing with drugs such as cocaine, LSD, and heroin, without lawful authority, would face life imprisonment. The amendment now imposes the death penalty for such offenses.

The adjustment to the death penalty originated from an amendment proposed by Senator Ali Ndume during the clause-by-clause review of the bill. Although the committee’s report did not initially recommend capital punishment, the amendment was adopted following a voice vote overseen by Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin, who declared the “ayes” as the majority.

This ruling was contested by Senator Adams Oshiomhole, who argued that the voice vote seemed to favor the “nays” and expressed concerns about the hurried nature of the decision on such a critical issue. However, Deputy Senate President Jibrin noted that it was too late for a division after his ruling.

The bill, having undergone its third reading, was subsequently passed, signaling a new era in Nigeria’s drug enforcement policy, pending further legislative processes and potential presidential assent.

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