Tuesday, 4 August 2020


"Do you think that the following offences deserve the capital punishment? "

Chinecherem UBAKA

   Image source:   Getty images

Put simply, a capital offences is an offence which when committed attracts death penalty. In Nigeria, death penalty is still a capital punishment and it is only imposed on offenders who have committed any of the capital offences and has been found guilty of such offence by a court of competent jurisdiction.

You know that the criminal justice administration in Nigeria is regulated by;
1. The Criminal Code
2.  The Penal Code
3. The Administration of Criminal Justice Act of 2015
4. The Administration of Criminal Justice Laws of the various states of the federation.
5. The Evidence Act of 2011
6. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal 
    Republic of Nigeria.

There are five major capital offences in Nigeria. 
* Murder
* Treason and Instigating the invasion of     Nigeria.
* Treachery
* Trial by Ordeal
* Armed Robbery

The Sharia Penal Code widened the list to include unnatural offences like sodomy, bestiality and buggery. However, under the Criminal Code, the foregoing offences do not carry capital punishments. Nevertheless, our spotlight will be on the five major capital offences in Nigeria.

Brief Description of the Major Capital Offences in Nigeria.
1. TREACHERY: defined by Sec 49 of the Criminal Code. It states that any person who INTENTIONALLY helps or ATTEMPTS to help the enemy in any war in which Nigeria may be engaged, is guilty of the offence of treachery and is liable to punishment by death. 

This offence is so grave that only the Attorney - General of the federation or Solicitor - General of the federation can prosecute. Persons who have obtained the consent of either the Attorney-General or Solicitor-General of the federation can go ahead to prosecute.

Sec 37 of the criminal code defines treason. The offence of treason is committed by any person who levies war against the state in order to intimidate or overawe the President or the Governor of a state. Such a person is also liable to the death penalty.  

Furthermore, any person who conspires with another and/or any person who instigates a foriegner to invade Nigeria with an armed force is guilty of treason. This offence also carries the capital punishment.

3. TRIAL BY ORDEAL: Trial by Ordeal is unlawful. Sec 207 of the Criminal Code provides for the offence of unlawful trial by Ordeal. The trial by the Ordeal of sasswood, eserebean, other poison, boiling oil, fire, immersion in water or exposure to the attacks of crocodiles, wild animals or any ordeal likely to result in death is unlawful.

Sec 208 of the Criminal Code Act, specifically provides that a person who directs, controls or presides at any trial by Ordeal is guilty of a felony and liable to death penalty.

4. MURDER: Any one who kills another person unlawfully is guilty of murder. Sec 316 of the Criminal Code provides for the elements of the offence of murder.
I. Intention to cause the death of another.
II. Intention to cause grievious bodily          
III. Action leading to the death of another
IV. Administration of any stupefying or overpowering things for the aforementioned purposes.
V. Wilfully stoping the breath of another person. 

A person found guilty of murder is punishable by death.

5. ARMED ROBBERY: By virtue of the Robbery and Firearms Act, the offence of armed robbery is punishable by death.

Now that you know the major capital offences in Nigeria, do you think that the offenders deserve the capital punishment?

Keywords: capital offences, Nigeria, Trial by Ordeal, Criminal Code.

Chinecherem Ubaka is a legal practitioner based in Lagos, Nigeria. She can be contacted via

No comments:

Post a comment