By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
INTENSE pressure has been brought to bear on the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to spare the lives of two death row prisoners, whose warrants he recently appended his signature.
By implication of the warrant, the lives of Daniel Nsofor and Osayinwinde Agbomien have been handed over to the hangman and they can be sent to the gallows anytime.
Amnesty International, a global human rights group, raised the alarm on Monday that the inmates might have been executed and pleaded with the governor to spare their lives and allow their appeal to go through the judicial process.
Back home, a coalition of human rights groups and lawyers met in Abuja for several hours, Tuesday, brainstorming on how best to convince Oshiomhole to rescind his execution order and give the two condemned men another chance to live.
The crucial meeting, which was convened by lawyers under the auspices of Prison Reforms and Decongestion Initiative, met with officials of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, in Abuja and considered options available to save the lives of the two embattled men.
Vanguard gathered that at the meeting, the groups deliberated extensively on the powers of the governors to issue death warrants and came to the conclusion that apart from Lagos State where a court had ruled that it was illegal to kill by hanging and firing squad, other states still had the powers to do so.
Consequently, the group decided to send a letter to the Edo State Governor, pleading with him to temper justice with mercy by withdrawing the execution warrant in respect of the two men already condemned to death.
Additionally, they decided to meet the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to intervene and halt the execution of the two men, since Nigeria had an existing moratorium on non-execution of death row prisoners.
The team was also to meet with the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Prisons last night to also seek his cooperation and understanding in preserving the lives of the two men pending the hearing and determination of an appeal filed by them against their execution.
But a senior prisons official who was at the meeting, said the team needed to act fast since the governor had the right under Nigerian law to sign a death warrant before an inmate is released by for execution. The groups decided to send an emissary to Oshiomhole to plead further with him and to apologise over certain issues relating to the inmates, which the governor is said to have taken exception to.
The NHRC on its part, fired another letter yesterday to the governor, still pleading with him to spare the lives of the two condemned men until their appeal was heard. A copy of the letter with reference No NHRC/ADM/596/1/7 dated October 23, 2012, which Vanguard sited last night, pleaded with the governor to rescind his execution order on Monday Nsofor and Osayinwinde Agbomien.
The letter, which was signed by Mrs. Oti Ovrawah, on behalf of the Executive Secretary of the NHRC, Prof Bem Angwe, said: “Further petitions received by the commission have revealed that the two inmates together with other death row inmates are applicants in suit No: FHC/B/CS/0136/2012 between Olu Fatogun and 7 ors V Governor of Edo State and the Comptroller General of the Prison pending before the Federal High Court Benin.”
“In the said suit, the applicants are challenging the execution order and are seeking further orders restraining the respondents from carrying out the execution of the applicants in the matter.
“In view of the pending suit referred to above, which the petitioners claim has been brought to the respondents’ notice as well as other reasons adduced in our earlier correspondence, we urge Your Excellency to reconsider and rescind the planned execution, pending the determination of all issues raised herein,” the NHRC pleaded.
But it could not be ascertained as at the time of filing the report if the inmates had been executed or when they would be killed.
The governor had defended his decision to kill the two men and spare the lives of five others who were presented to him, pointing out that they did not deserve to live given the gravity of their bestial acts against their victims.