The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) has condemned the killing of three death row prisoners in Benin City Prison.
The group, in a statement on Wednesday by its national coordinator, Chino Obiagwu, noted that the death warrants of those executed were signed by the Edo State Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki.
The convicts: Ogbomoro Omoregie, Apostle Igene and Mark Omosowhota were executed on December 23 2016 in Edo State, south-south Nigeria.
They were all convicted and sentenced to death about 20 years ago by military tribunals under the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree as amended.
LEDAP noted that in an earlier petition it submitted to the Governor on behalf of the executed prisoners on December 21, 2016, protesting the plan for their execution, the prisoners had pleaded with the Governor to shelve the planned execution, saying there was a pending case at the Court of Appeal brought by all death row prisoners in Nigeria against their execution.
They pointed out that the appeal had not been decided and maintained that it was illegal to carry out the executions.
“LEDAP is appalled that the earliest social duty of Governor Obaseki upon assumption of office was execution of his citizen on death row. We reiterate that all prisoners, including those sentenced to death, retain all the fundamental rights endowed on all citizens by the 1999 Constitution. This was re-emphasised by the Court of Appeal in the case of Peter Nemi vs Attorney General of Lagos State in 1994. The Supreme Court of Nigeria also held in Nasir Bello vs Attorney-General of Oyo State that a prisoner cannot be legally executed while his case is pending in court.
Death Penalty Moratorium
“In so far as an appeal against the sentences of the death row prisoners in Nigeria are pending in court, to the knowledge of the prison authorities and the government who participated in the high court proceedings before the appeal, there is no legal justification for the Edo executions, more so when it was carried out cruelly on a day to the eve of Christmas.
“It is also appalling that Edo State government carried out the execution despite the declaration by Nigerian Government at its 2009 and 2014 Universal Periodic Reports (UPR) to the United Nations Human Rights Council that Nigeria has put in place a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
“The December 23, 2016 execution of these three prisoners, as well as similar execution of four prisoners on June 21 2013 by the same Edo State government have undermined Nigeria’s declarations to the international community for death penalty moratorium,” the group said.
LEDAP has further called on the Federal Government to stop all death penalty executions forthwith.
“The National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly should amend the Criminal Code and Penal Code, as well as the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act to remove death sentence as punishment for crimes and replace it with life imprisonment or term of years’ sentence,” the group proposed.