Nigerian police officer sentenced to death for shooting lawyer dead

LAGOS (Reuters) – A Nigerian court on Monday sentenced to death a police officer convicted of shooting dead a pregnant female lawyer on Christmas Day in 2022, likely igniting debate on the place of the death penalty in Africa’s most populous country.

Nigeria has at least 3,000 people on death row, according to Amnesty International, but executions are rare, which has led to calls by some rights groups to abolish the death sentence.

The Lagos State High Court had in January put on murder trial police officer Drambi Vandi who was accused of shooting Bolanle Raheem, who was pregnant with twins, at close range.

Vandi denied the charge and had argued that the bullet that was presented in court as evidence was not from his gun.

“The court found the defendant guilty on one count of murder. You will be hanged by the neck till you are dead,” judge Ibironke Harrison said.

Vandi can appeal the sentence and the Lagos state governor has to sign off on the death sentence.

Rights groups have for years accused Nigerian police and other law enforcement agencies of murders, extortion, torture and harassment, which authorities deny.

Three years ago, demonstrators said police and soldiers opened fire during a protest against police brutality, though both sets of security forces denied firing live rounds.

(Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by Mark Heinrich)