Barely one month after he was sworn in as the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki has announced his intention to execute three death row prisoners at Oko Prisons in Benin City, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
The convicts had been sentenced to death by military tribunals under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree 1971 as amended, in which there is no right of appeal.
The prisoners are to be executed today (Friday), according to the Legal Defence and Assistance Project, a non-governmental organisation working to protect and promote human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria.
Chino Obiagwu, LEDAP’s director, in a petition to Mr. Obaseki, urged the governor to halt the planned execution.
“These earmarked prisoners were sentenced by military tribunals under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree 1971 as amended, in which there was no right of appeal. We have filed an appeal pending at the Court of Lagos seeking order that these prisoners have right of appeal under the 1999 Constitution,” Mr. Obiagwu, a lawyer, stated in the petition dated December 23rd.
The group urged the governor not to start his regime with execution of prisoners “who have insisted on their innocence and have not exhausted appeal processes”.
Mr. Obaseki was sworn-in as the governor of Edo State last month, replacing Adams Oshiomhole who had governed for eight years.
PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm if Mr. Obaseki or his predecessor signed for the execution of the inmates.
When contacted, John Mayaki, the interim Chief Press Secretary to Mr. Obaseki, said he was not aware of the petition.
“I need to see the petition before I can respond,” Mr. Mayaki told PREMIUM TIMES.
In 2013, four prisoners on death row were hanged by officers of the Nigeria Prison Service in Edo State, with Mr. Oshiomhole signing the death warrant for two of them, according to Henry Idahagbon, then Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state.
It was the first known execution in Nigeria since 2006, according to Amnesty International.
The prisoners – Chima Ejiofor, Daniel Nsofor, Osarenmwinda Aigbonkhan, and Richard Igagu – were convicted of murder, armed robbery, and rape. They had instituted a suit before a federal court contending that executing them after 16 years of trauma and imminent death was inhuman and degrading and asked that their death sentences be commuted to terms of imprisonment.
“These people were convicted 15 years ago,” Mr. Idahagbon had said following a widespread condemnation that greeted the hanging of the inmates.
“I was only informed of this (last night) by the prison authorities that they had been hanged. One of them was convicted in Kaduna, while their matters had gone up to the Supreme Court and came back to the Federal High Court, Benin.
“It really has nothing to do with us a government. The governor only signed the death sentence of two, while previous governors signed that of two others.”