From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja The decision to retain health maintenance organisations (HMOs) as part of the country’s health insurance programme caused a major disagreement between the House of Representatives Committee on Health Services and the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Yusuf Usman. Usman, at the just concluded two-day investigative hearing…
.1, 644 await the hangman
Why govs refuse to sign death warrants
By ’TUNDE THOMAS, VINCENT KALU and CHIOMA IGBOKWE
FOR almost 20 years, ThankGod Eboh was in confinement as a death row inmate in Kaduna Prison. As a condemned prisoner, he and others like him were locked up in condemned cells that were not only congested but hardly fit for human habitation.
Sunday Oladapo was another former death row inmate. The 62-year old ex-convict also spent 20 years waiting for the hangman at Kirikiri Maximum Prison before former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu committed his death sentence to life imprisonment before he was finally granted amnesty by former governor Babatunde Fashola after spending 29 years in prison.
However, while Eboh and Oladapo can be said to be lucky, hundreds of condemned men are today filling Nigerian Prisons to the brim waiting to be hanged or executed. The cells, which were designed to accommodate 10 inmates at a time in some prisons, are now housing more than 30 condemned priaoners.
Some of these condemned men who are being held in the overcrowded cells known in Nigerian Prisons as condemned cells have been languishing in the prisons for many years and under deplorable conditions.
Investigations by SATURDAY SUN revealed that some of them have been on death row for 20 years and more. They are spread across prisons that have facilities and cells to hold those that have been sentenced to death pending when their execution would take place.
Prisons that have these facilities and where condemned men are being held are located in Lagos (Kirikiri Maximum Prison); Ibara Prison in Abeokuta, Agodi Prison, Ibadan; Kaduna Prison; Kano Prison; Port Harcourt Prison and Enugu Prison. As at today, these prisons have about 1,644 persons on death row and this was confirmed by the Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Prison Service, Mr Francis Enobere.
Although, the population of the condemned men is not the major factor responsible for the overall congestion of Nigerian Prisons but the congestion of condemned cells where they are being held has become a source of concern to prison authorities. Speaking with the SATURDAY SUN on condition of anonymity, a top official of Nigerian Prisons Service in Ibara, Abeokuta, Ogun State said the situation has become worrisome.
According to him, “The case of condemned men has become a source of big headache to prison management. We are confused and perplexed about what to do with this case as officials of the Ministry of Interior have not been able to proffer solution.”
Continuing, he said: “Congestion has become a major problem to us. The cells for condemned people are over-filled. Not only here in Ibara but across the entire country. Recently there was a workshop for senior prison officials in Abuja and when we all got there, we discovered that the problem of condemned men being held in congested cells has become a major issue across the country’s prisons. There is no space again to hold condemned men because they are kept in special cells. The irony of it is that despite the precarious situation, more people are still being sentenced to death and are also being sent to the prison to be held pending their execution. The situation is so bad that one senior prison official in the South East Zone complained to one state governor that was visiting the prison that the situation is so precarious that he is afraid that one day the condemned men would not revolt.”
Urging President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Minister of Interior, Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau to quickly do the needful before the situation gets out of hand, the official said: “The situation in the prison regarding these condemned men is explosive, the earlier a solution is found the better.”
The official further denied that the prison doesn’t have enough hangmen to hang death row inmates. He said the problem was with the governors.
Further investigations by SATURDAY SUN revealed that the major reason why the number of condemned men waiting to be executed keeps swelling was the refusal of several state governors to sign death warrant of the condemned men.
Since 1999 when the nation returned to civil rule after long years of military reign, only two state governors have signed death warrants and these are governors Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State and Ibrahim Shekarau, Kano. The then governor of Kano State, Shekarau signed two death warrants in 2006 and current Edo State governor, Oshiomhole signed four death warrants in 2013. of Kano State, Shekarau signed two
However, out of the four death warrants signed by Oshiomhole, only three were executed. The fourth condemned man luckily escaped the hangman’s noose because the judge that handed him the death sentence specifically stated that he must be executed by firing squad. Put together, there has been only five execution of death sentence judgments on condemned men in the last 10 years and this is a far cry from a figure of about 1,644 of them waiting for the hangmen.
Saturday Sun gathered that many of the governors were not willing to sign the death warrants so that they would not be seen as having their blood on their hands.
This view was supported by former governor of Kaduna State in the second Republic, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, who said he was not disposed to anything that had to do with taking human lives.
“I will not blame any state governor that refused to sign death warrants of any condemned inmate. You know that civilian governors value lives more than their military counterparts who signed death warrants during their time. You must also remember that soldiers are trained to kill, civilians are not. Human life is sacred, and there’s a lot you have to take into consideration before you decide whether it is justifiable or not to put pen to paper to authorise the killing of a soul,” he said.
However, holding a dissenting view to Balarabe’s position, Oshiomhole, while justifying his position said he signed the death warrants because death penalty is still not only enforceable but it has not been expunged from the country’s Criminal Code. He added that the execution warrants were signed after the condemned men had exhausted all their constitutional rights up to the Supreme Court.
SATURDAY SUN investigations revealed that out of the total number of the condemned, 29 are females, and are being held in special cells designed for condemned female inmates. One of the popular public figures that is now on death row is the Lagos cleric, Reverend Emeka Ezeugo popularly known as Rev. King whose death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court on February 26 this year.
For some Nigerians especially those who support the state governors’ refusal to sign the death warrants, Nigeria should have done away with death sentence since most other countries of the world especially advanced nations have abolished death sentences.
Moreover, investigations revealed that many nations still retain capital punishment in their statutes. Some of these nations include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Chad, China, Egypt, Gambia, Ethiopia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Thailand, Syria, India, Lesotho, Japan, and even the United States of America.
Some Nigerians however bared their minds on whether capital punishment should be abolished or retained.