Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole signs death warrant of 2 prisoners

Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has signed the death warrants of two prisoners on death row, international rights groups said today.

The state’s Attorney General, Osagie Obayuwana, told Amnesty International today that Mr. Oshiomhole signed the execution warrants two weeks ago following a request from prison authorities. 

Edo State prison authorities reportedly complained to the governor that death row inmates involved in a recent jailbreak incident had become “unmanageable.”

Mr. Obayuwana explained that the two prisoners to be killed were convicted of murder, for which Nigeria’s laws prescribe the death penalty. Mr. Obayuwana did not provide the complete identities of the two prisoners, but said the date of the execution was at the discretion of prison authorities. He added that Mr. Oshiomhole also reviewed the cases of four other death row prisoners, and decided that two should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment while two are to be released.

Celine Lemmel, a representative in Nigeria for the human rights group Avocats Sans Frontieres (ASF France), today released a statement in which he identified one of the soon-to-be-executed prisoners as Callistus Ike. Mr. Ike, an inmate on death row in Enugu Prisons, was recently brought to Benin Prison to be executed. A source at the Benin Prison disclosed that the gallows were recently inspected in preparedness for an eventual execution.

Lucy Freeman, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for Africa, called Oshiomhole’s signing of the death warrants under the pretext of controlling unmanageable inmates as “a deep disrespect for the judicial process.”

Ms. Freeman disclosed that both prisoners slated for execution were among 840 inmates who filed an appeal through the Legal Defence and Advocacy Project (LEDAP) in March 2010. An injunction granted by the court upholding the appeal was however lifted in April 2012. LEDAP immediately filed another appeal that same month following the court's decision. A decision on that appeal is pending, she said.

“The inmates are part of an ongoing appeal. The execution of a prisoner when the execution of the sentence is still under challenge in the courts is a flagrant violation of human rights,” Ms. Freeman said.

Since the last official execution in Nigeria in 2002, there has been a de facto moratorium on executions, Avocats Sans Frontières France said. The organization recalled that the 2004 National Study Group on Death Penalty advised to put a moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty in Nigeria.

Mr. Oshiomhole’s action comes at a time many countries around the world, including in Africa, have ruled mandatory death sentencing as unconstitutional, Amnesty International said.

“The signature of warrant of executions in Edo State proves that the situation remains very fragile and that actions need to be continued,” Avocats Sans Frontieres said.