Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, has ruled out the possibility of Nigerians on death row in various countries abroad getting repatriated through the prisoners’ exchange programme.
Onyeama, who spoke to NAN in Abuja on Wednesday, said those that committed capital offences did not fall within the programme.
He also said it was often impracticable for those convicted of capital offences to be repatriated unless they were commuted to life sentences.
A human rights organisation, Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), had earlier called on the federal government to increase its efforts in fighting for Nigerians on death row in foreign countries.
The organisation said at least 300 Nigerians were currently on death row in prisons across Asian countries since 2016.
It also revealed that 120 Nigerians faced the prospects of death in Chinese prisons, and over 170 in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and five in Qatar, United Arab Emirate and Saudi Arabia.
But Onyeama noted that each country had its unique laws and as a result, Nigeria will not have any leverage in terms of influencing the implementation of these laws’.
“With respect to the death row, in cases where Nigerians have been sentenced to death, we have always intervened to ask for commutation of the death sentence,” he said.
“You can have agreements where you can have prisoners exchanges or you can have some mechanisms for after a prisoner has served a certain amount of their sentence. They could come back to their country to serve the rest.”
But he said such cases could only be possible with countries that Nigeria had such bilateral agreement with.
“There are bilateral agreements that we have with some countries and certainly we do try in those countries to persuade them to send these prisoners back. But a lot of them are there for capital offences,” he said.
“And very often, it will be impossible for capital offences, unless they are commuted to life sentences to get those countries to agree to send those prisoners back.
He cautioned against Nigerians abroad taking risks that will implicate them.
“You go to countries where you know that drug trafficking is a capital offence, you are literally taking your life in your own hands,” he said.
“We will keep trying to get the message across, but we know that there are some people who are willing to take the risks because some people make it and they see that the rewards are impressive.”