A non-governmental organization, Paths of Peace Initiative, PPI, recently called for the immediate release of popular Lagos cleric, Reverend King who was condemned to death in 2006 for allegedly killing one of his female worshippers by pouring petrol on her.
The NGO asserted unequivocally that, in spite of the death penalty, the cleric who has been confined in Maiduguri prison awaiting death, deserve freedom based on the prevailing situation in the country.
They pointed out that the recent release and pardon granted both members of the dreaded insurgents, Boko Haram, and many other condemned armed robbers, kidnappers and killer herdsmen in Lagos and other parts of the country, while a man of God who is still expressing his innocence is left to face the gallows, is a gross injustice which must be addressed without delay.
President of the NGO, maverick Dandy Eze bared his mind in this interview.
Why we are fighting for a condemned man
We are a human rights group incorporated in Nigerian to function as a front which is committed to fighting for the rights of the oppressed, the abused, the helpless and hapless Nigerians, who may have suffered injustice in the hands of men in positions of authority in both public and private sectors of the country. The existence of our organization predates 2006 when Rev. King allegedly committed the offence. We were also in the forefront of calls for appropriate punishment to be meted on him if found guilty, after the story blew open. We have also followed keenly developments on the case until he was condemned to death.
However, we have also seen many other developments in the country since then. These ugly developments includes, but not limited to the gruesome killings, kidnapping, banditry etc that have bedeviled the entire country. We are appalled that the powers that be have wittingly or unwittingly allowed most of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes in the country to get away freely with their atrocities.
Many of them including members of the dreaded insurgent terror group that have made this country a pariah state have not only been granted pardon but equipped with resources to start life afresh. Did you not hear about the shocking story of one of our gallant soldiers who was crippled after the wounds he received in the war fronts while fighting Boko Haram insurgents only for him to survive and come home to be confronted with the lavish treatment given the same insurgents that inflicted the wounds on him? These were the same criminals that killed almost all his colleagues that were at the battle front with him in Borno state now being feted and pardoned to go home and sin no more.
The same sordid story was replicated in Lagos state with the release and pardon granted both armed robbers and suspected killers of our democratic heroine, Kudirat Abiola. Then, in good conscience and human consideration, why are they still keeping Rev King in prison after 15 years? This is more so when he is known to have continued to plead innocent of the crime. We strongly feel that he deserves freedom now and not tomorrow.
Are you therefore saying that based on these your assertions, all serving and condemned criminals IN Nigeria must be released?
Nooooo, far from it, equity and justice demands that as issues arise, they must be treated purely on their merit or demerit. In the first place, is it right for the criminals and killers I mentioned to be freed? All cases must be treated on its merit or demerit.
In the case of Reverend King, there was an uproarious public trial even before his condemnation not withstanding that he kept on pleading innocent of the crime. However, after his condemnation and the delay in carrying out his execution for 15 years, coupled with the shocking and condemnable posture of government over deadly criminals, it is not out of place for such a case to be reviewed and possibly treated with his continued insistence that he did not commit the crime.
There were even stories that the female victim confessed in her statement with the police before she died that Rev. King was not responsible for what happened to her. Every other witness in the case reportedly made statements on police statement papers but after the death of the victim, police quickly used ordinary foolscap papers to frame a lie in order to prove that they did a thorough investigation. Even the finger print on that statement paper is not that of the victim. In fact, there were so many inconsistencies and frame ups but unfortunately, the law court did not recognize these and ended up condemning him to death.
It is noteworthy to say that immediately after his condemnation to death, Reverend King made a prophetic statement to his lawyer. He reportedly told him that if his hands are clean, God will expose those that judged him wrongly. I would like to state without fear of contradiction that his prophetic statement came to pass six months after with the faith that befell his traducers later.
What is the way out now?
The way out is for government to, not only grant Reverend King freedom but, release him unconditionally without delay. Also, I think there is a provision in law that after 15 years, the fate of condemned people can be reviewed. It is in this regard that we are calling for his immediate release. What is worth doing is worth doing well. It is better for a million criminals to be freed than one innocent man to be condemned.