Amnesty International says at least 600 people were put to death and a total of 2,285 people currently on death row in Nigeria.
The international rights group revealed this in its 2017 global review of the death penalty published on Thursday.
It said the figures showed that Nigeria imposed the highest number of death sentences in the sub-Saharan Africa region in the previous year.
Amnesty International, however, commended other countries in the region who made “great strides” in the global fight to abolish the death penalty, with a significant decrease in death sentences being imposed.
According to the report, Guinea became the 20th state in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.
“The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition. The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach. Unfortunately, some states in Nigeria continue to expand the scope of death sentences,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty said.
He noted that the number of people on death row in Nigeria is also the highest in the region, although no executions were carried out in 2017.
The Amnesty International boss decried that death sentences in the country have spiked massively over the past two years, with 171 and 527 death sentences recorded in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
“With governments in the region continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of the world’s remaining executing countries – such as Nigeria – could not be starker.
“Now that 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, it is high time that the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books,” Shetty advised.
According to him, the organisation recorded a drop in the number of executing countries across Sub-Saharan Africa, from five in 2016 to two in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions.
The Secretary-General noted that while Botswana and Sudan reportedly resumed executions in 2018, such occurrence must not overshadow the positive steps being taken by other countries across the region.
He disclosed that The Gambia has also signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moving to abolish the death penalty.
In furtherance of this, Shetty said The Gambian President, Adama Barrow, established an official moratorium (temporary ban) on executions in February 2018.