Govs should sign death warrants of condemned criminals

Ogbonnaya Akoma

According to 07:00 am news story of Radio Nigeria on Tuesday, 10 March, 2020, many state governors have been declining to sign death warrants for the execution of those convicted of capital offences of murder, armed robbery, serial killings and similar offences in the country. According to that radio and other sources, the refusal of the governors to sign death warrants of the condemned criminals in their states is one of the reasons why our correctional service centres across the country have been congested that inmates now suffer all the nuisances and other health conditions usually associated with congestion and over-crowding, including the spread of nasal, catarrhal, similar air-borne ailments and other communicable, skin diseases associated with such situations alongside suffocation and eventual death.

Let me say it here that the reluctance of our governors to sign the death warrants of the condemned criminals in our midst is a clear disservice to the Nigerian nation, dereliction of duty, and an act of fragrant disobedience to the laws of the land that require them to do so. Here, many of our governors have failed Nigeria as a nation, and I go ahead to challenge them to start now to discharge one of their official duties to the people in this regard. They should sign the death warrants of those who have been found to have killed other Nigerians or maimed them in one way or the other violently. These governors have no option than to discharge their statutory duties to the state in this regard.  Here, I like to challenge the lawyers in our midst to wake up in this regard and institute legal actions against any governor who goes ahead to derelict on this duty to the Nigerian state in any identified state. Really, our lawyers must take these governors up without further waste of time.        

I repeat that governors should sign for the execution of the condemned criminals in their states for many reasons. First, our statutes and laws spell out punishments for all categories of offences against the state by individuals and other bodies. Nigeria is a country that had adopted capital punishment for capital offences as highlighted before now, and this is contained in our law books. So, anybody who kills intentionally or does so through armed robbery, or assassination, et cetera, and is found guilty of such must die as ordered by the courts! No more, no less, especially when the trial court (of first instance), the appeal court(s) and the apex court have all found such a person guilty of committing the capital offence. Any governor who fails to sign the death warrant of such a person, after all these processes, is not worth occupying such an exalted office and should consider resigning as he himself is committing an offence in this regard; as he is disobeying the laws of the land he had sworn to uphold while occupying the office.

Come to think of it. Anybody who goes to steal with a gun in the day or at night intends to kill any person who stands on his way in doing this! Anybody who takes a machete, or gun, any dangerous weapon and ambushes another person and kills him should not live; the same thing with any pastor who kills or sets ablaze one or more members of his church. It will be most unfair on the part of any governor who fails to sign the death warrants of the convicts as enumerated above, and that is what is happening in our midst today, and which is worrisome, unacceptable and uncharitable at all. Those who read daily newspapers must have seen series of advertisements placed in many newspapers recently during which time some members of a religious denomination had congratulated their ‘leader’ on his birthday, and who is currently in prison waiting on the hangman’s noose in one of the correctional centres in Nigeria. The delinquent and maverick pastor had been convicted of murder by the trial high court in the first instance, the appeal court and, finally, by the Supreme Court of Nigeria! This means that that ‘pastor’ had been found guilty of intentionally killing one of his church members by all the courts of the land which went ahead to order that the ‘pastor,’ who had set fire on that member, be killed also, in keeping with what the laws of Nigeria say.

But many years after the courts had ordered that that ‘pastor’ be killed the way he had taken the life of one of his members, the man still lives till today, contrary to what the state had ordered! This means that the governor of that state where the offence was committed is superior and bigger than the state he was elected to serve; or wiser than all the judges and their courts who had ruled that that pastor be executed. Allowing this particular pastor-murderer, whose members have been praising, hailing and celebrating him overzealously for killing a fellow human being that was entitled to her own life too, to live hitherto is, in my thinking, one of the worst acts of disservice to the state the concerned governor has committed against the state and people of Nigeria! The implication is that by not signing the execution warrant of that pastor hitherto, the convicted murderer may one day be released to go back and continue in his heinous activities against the state and people of Nigeria. This is not what should be! He should be executed as ordered. 

  Just recently, a thirty-year old motor-cyclist was shot and killed by a soldier on a road-block ‘duty’ along the Umuahia-Aba expressway. The young man lost his life to the bullets of the trigger-happy soldier (who should have been fighting Boko Haram in the North-East) just because he did not give the soldier the one hundred naira gratification he had demanded from him! Now, suppose the courts find that soldier guilty of murder at the trial court, appeal court and the Supreme Court of Nigeria and  these courts go ahead to order that he be killed the way he had killed the helpless motorcyclist (whose young wife and three children have now been subjected to hardship in the absence of their bread-winner who had committed no offence against the state or anybody), will any governor who should sign the execution warrant of the wicked soldier and who derelicts on that be excused for any reason? No; not all. Such a governor will, instead, be regarded as the worst enemy of the country, Nigeria, whose laws he had sworn to obey. But this is what many of our governors do today by refusing to sign death warrants of murders and armed robbers, et cetera; these governors have continued to fail Nigerians in this regard, and they must change for good from today. They should be signing the execution warrants brought before them in the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. Our governors should not try to be above the laws of the land.

Today, I suffer a devastating chest pain some armed robbers had inflicted on me when they struck in the night of 28 February, 2002. When they came that day (on a day we had received our salary for the month), one of them had ‘slapped’ me at my back-chest with one side of the machete he was bearing, just as my pregnant wife was kicked and booted in an attempt to coerce us into bringing out and giving them the money we had in the house. The result is that today, eighteen years after, I have been frequenting the hospitals in our midst in an attempt to live. If eventually those killer-armed robbers were caught, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death, and somebody in the name of a governor refuses to assent to their death warrants and thereby allowing those killers to continue to live, does this not amount to a complete disservice, and even wickedness, to all those the governor governs?          

About author

Ogbonnaya Akoma

Public health practitioner/public affairs commentator
Trans-Amadi Layout, Port Harcourt, Rivers State

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