The social media has lately been awash with undue and undeserved criticism of Governor Adams Oshiomole for signing the death warrant of four criminals who had been adjudged to deserve capital punishment.
Daniel Nsofor, Osaremwinda Aigbuohian and two others were forcibly sent to the great beyond a week ago in fulfillment of death sentence passed by competent courts. A fifth person was temporarily relieved because the prison authorities said it could not comply with the terms of his mode of execution. The military tribunal which sentenced him, according to reports, said he would die by firing squad.
There were conflicting reports about the status of the fifth death row prisoner. The status pales into insignificance compared to the outrage instigated by Amnesty International and other agencies over the execution.
"The executed people who were guilty of robbery and murder were hanged in Edo last Monday. They had been on the death row for a long time according to Henry Idahagbon, Commissioner for justice in Edo. These sudden executions mark a sudden brutal return to use of death penalty in Nigeria, a truly dark day for human rights in the country," said Lucy Freeman Amnesty International’s Deputy Director in Africa.
Idahagbon said two of the warrants were signed by Governor Adams Oshiomole while two had been signed by the previous Governor.
"If the international community thinks it is wrong then they should approach the National Assembly to repeal the law," the commissioner told an international press agency.
Some civil society organizations in the country have also urged Governor Oshiohole to halt further action on signing execution warrants on convicted prisoners and urged the state government to join the widespread call for the abolition of death penalty. Some of the organizations include the African Network for Environmental and Economic Justice [ANEEJ], Gani Fawehinmi Movement for Good Government [GFMFGG], Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations [CONGOs], Coalition of Edo Youth Organisations [CEYO] and South-south Youth league.
During a meeting with the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice of the state in Benin they expressed their stance against capital punishment. Executive Director of one of the groups Rev. David Ugolor who spoke on behalf of the others said their meeting with the commissioner was spurred by Monday’s hanging of the death row prisoners.
They urged the state to move in favour of abolition of death penalty and appealed to the governor to suspend further action on the convicted criminals for the sake of humanity. But the group also praised the state government for improving criminal justice system there. The legal opinion from the Department of Public Prosecution [DPP] must come within 30 days, a situation that makes for speedy administration of criminal justice in the state.
The bulk of angst and condemnation of the hanging came from the international community. Amnesty international leads the pack of critics. Advocate sans Frontieres France [ASFF] also condemned the execution of the four sentenced inmates.
The flak on Governor Adams Oshiomohle is made to look as though he had acted illegally. Such thinking negate the reality of capital punishment as a major canon in Nigeria’s penal code which, for the avoidance of doubt was bequeathed to the country from the colonial masters. The minister of foreign Affairs Olugbenga Ashiru said that much in defence of the undue criticism against the action.
He said the Edo State Governor did not act outside his constitutional jurisdiction in the execution of Osaremwinda Aigbuohian, Daniel Nsofor and two others.
Critics of death penalty say an eye-for-an-eye as the penalty advocates will make everybody blind but the proponents say it serves as a time tested deterrent against crime. The point must be made that what happened in Edo transcends debates in favour or against capital punishment. The Governor acted in obedience to the law.
The questions that ought to be asked are; to what extent did the inmates exhaust their appellate options and whether there were reasons to believe that justice may have been perverted in their matter. If no such loopholes exist it behooves the authorities to take decisions including hard ones as the foregoing in executing their duties. The Edo governor may have exhibited rare courage in signing the death warrants.
The psychological torture of death row inmates who do not know when their end would come ought to concern many. In the eyes of the law they have been adequately punished but the sentence has not been executed because some people have shied away from their responsibility. How does it feel to stay in prison not sure if and when your sentence would be executed? It gets worse if you have not been pardoned which implies that you wake up each day not knowing if that would be the last. In a way the decision to end the trauma is a psychological relief.
Those who kick against make it look as though it belongs in the past. But it is still in practice in many states in the United states of America. In the state of Texas Capital Punishment had been restored since 1976 to the point that a woman convicted of killing her elderly neighbor would have been executed by now.
She was convicted of killing her neighbour and cutting off her fingers. She was to die by lethal injection. About 1337 executions are reported to have occurred in Texas since the return of death penalty including 12 women. The last woman before the current one was executed in September 2010. Texas is the leading state in Executions leaving Virginia a distant second. Examples abound elsewhere as has been shown.
Edo Sate governor should not be meant to look like a blood monger. He only acted in accordance with the law. Those peeved with the incident should engage the National Assembly to remove capital punishment from the law. Oshiomhole has done nothing wrong.