The recent signing of death warrants on two prison convicts in Edo State by Governor Adams Oshiomhole has pitched the labour activist turned politician against members of the human rights community. Amnesty International, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and Human Rights Social Development and Environment Foundation (HURSDEF) are among rights groups campaigning for a reprieve for the two convicted inmates of Benin Prison.
Specifically, the international human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has appealed to Oshiomhole to rescind the decision to carry out the death sentence passed on the two inmates at the state prison. According to reports, Amnesty has based its appeal on the fact that “it was difficult for many accused persons to get justice in Nigeria’s justice system.” It also observes that it would not be fair to execute those who might not have received fair trials and who had been on death row for many years. Amnesty International’s Director-General, Mr. Salil Shetty, states that the body is concerned that Oshiomhole wants to carry out the execution to tackle the challenge of prison congestion.
While the ACHPR has written to President Goodluck Jonathan to prevail on the governor to halt the anticipated execution of the duo, the HURSDEF has joined the campaign to seek reprieve for them based on the outcome of studies that had shown that the country’s criminal justice system could not guarantee a fair trial. But Oshiomhole has defended his action to have the duo executed based on their dastardly and heinous criminality against humanity. The duo are said to have robbed their victims, dismembered them and buried their body parts separately. Oshiomhole is insisting that the law must take its course on the matter to deter others from indulging in such bestiality in future. It will be recalled that there were four convicts involved.
While the governor freed the first two and rehabilitated them and asked them to sin no more, he however, sanctioned the death of the duo that showed untoward brutality to their victims. Therefore, the argument that the governor’s action is to decongest Benin Prison advanced by Amnesty International is spurious and untenable. In a country where criminals rob and kill their victims in most a horrendous manner such as the duo, there is need for justice to prevail. It is good that the rights groups have expressed their reservations on the matter.
We think that the best thing they can do is to appeal for leniency. We also note that it is presumptuous to suggest that these people did not get fair trial in Nigeria’s judicial system. Fair trial cannot be determined by one party alone. In fact, what constitutes fair trial should not be the preserve of the rights groups alone. The best they can do in this matter is just to appeal for clemency and they have just done that. However, the desirability or otherwise of capital punishment in the modern world is still debatable. Regardless of which side the argument swings, we are totally against capital punishment in all its ramifications. Capital punishment does not serve any useful purpose. It is not in any way reformatory or corrective.
The person punished does not in any way benefit from the lesson the punishment is supposed to effect in his life. We, therefore, appeal to Governor Oshiomhole to reconsider his position on the matter and temper justice with mercy. Killing them will not bring back the lost lives and it will not solve any problem. Moreover, death sentence has not deterred people from taking to crime. It will be better if the two spend the rest of their lives in prison and possibly learn one or two lessons from their criminality. The essence of prison is to reform individuals that have flouted the laws of the land.