Why Gov Amosun backs lifting of moratorium on death penalty- AG
Ogun State Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr. Olumide Ayeni in this interview with Correspondent EFE AGHALOKPE speaks on why Ogun State is complying with recent resolution of the National Council of State lifting the moratorium on the capital punishment and other current issues. Excerpts:
Why did the State Government lift its self imposed moratorium on death sentence / capital punishment?
Removing the moratorium on death sentence or capital punishment is a difficult thing to do. It is about taking human life after due process. We should understand a number of things. Firstly, the governor (Senator Ibikunle Amosun) took an oath to act in accordance with the laws of the land and the constitution without fear or favour, affection or ill will, and to do what is right at all times. That is why an Attorney General exists. We need to understand the basic facts and concepts against that background. At the last Council of State meeting of the nation, one of the resolutions that came out from the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as part of efforts put out to decongest correction homes and prisons. The resolution was passed to sign the death penalty / capital punishment warrant, Commute the sentence, don’t leave it in wriggling of hands in the name of I don’t want to be seen taking human life. This fact needs to be stressed, and the governor, Senator Amosun is not shirking his responsibility.
In the last Council of State meeting held recently, we had a robust debate on the pros and cons, merit and demerit of removing the moratorium. The death penalty still remains part of our laws in the land. We took a very responsible decision, looking at all the prevailing circumstances, in lifting the moratorium, in doing so, we took into consideration some facts which the governor actively participated in. We sought the views of both national and international partners, including Amnesty International, European Union, United Nations, as to whether the decision was cruel or not, we then looked at it, that the death penalty / capital punishment still remains part of the laws of our land. In lifting the moratorium, we have set two parameters for ourselves. Firstly the death penalty will be effected after all due process is completed. I know that avenue of appeal will be exhausted, all avenue of clemency of the law will be exhausted, individual consideration by the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy before the death sentence / capital punishment will be meted out to whoever deserves it.
So we won’t have an Aliu -Bello kind of situation that happened in Oyo State20 to 30 years ago recurring here where somebody was mistakenly executed before he could have his appeal determined. We also took into consideration a second point as I said earlier in cases the death penalty / capital punishment will be imposed on the most deserving cases or circumstances. I will put that into context, the concept of justice should not only be to a man who had offended against the norms and forms of the society, there should also be justice for the society and the victims. In a situation where someone had been murdered, all due process had taken place or someone who engages in ritual killings, the kind of cultism that is beginning to fester in Ikorodu axis of Lagos State, we pray it does not spill over into our community while we empathize with that. We don’t have to wait until there is a crisis before this type of message is sent out, it’s only going to be in deserving cases, the most heinous circumstances imaginable and particularly where lives had been lost, that is one thing. When this government came into office in 2011, so many things needed to be done, we are beginning to see part of the fruit of the effort of this administration. Six years ago in terms of health more abundance, despite the economic challenge we are all facing, there is increase in security and the welfare of the people, we have to note one thing that nobody will come to invest in an atmosphere where there is no security, a breakdown of law and order so this policy will check criminals.
How do you mean in deserving cases. Deserving cases like armed robbery or kidnapping?
We do have laws, an instance, in cases of armed robbery there is a penalty for it. In Edo State, certain instances such as kidnapping attracts death penalty, in Ogun State it isn’t so, not yet, am not saying it’s not going to be in future. That is why the Inspector General of Police is crying out saying let there be death penalty across the country in cases of kidnapping, there must be something that he saw, there must have been a crackdown that led him to make such call. The self imposed moratorium on death penalty should be lifted and if need be should be completely meted out. Two years ago in Edo State, the former governor of the state Adams Oshiomole put out words that they should carry out execution, six execution were carried out. One of the six people who were executed was a man who fed his three years old child with acid on the ground that where he came from, an illegitimate kid brings Ill luck. He was convicted, went through all due process, but the former governor felt that he was not entitled to any form of pardon and the death sentence was carried out. What may be a deserving case in that situation may not be a deserving case in another.
That is why we have put out words in deserving cases after due process. If you want to have a decent society, the rule of law must prevail. Nevertheless, people will do all they can to avoid the death penalty been effected, the whole thing is a process. If you want to sustain development, if you want to affirm the sanctity of the first duty of any government, which is to secure peace and order, security, to maintain good governance, the rule of law must prevail. That rule of law when it is done in accordance with due process, I don’t think anyone should think otherwise. I say to those who don’t want the death penalty, go remove it from the laws of the land. As long as capital punishment still remains part of the laws of our land, if we must have an efficient, effective society for the good of the greatest number of people in the society, then the removal of the moratorium must be implemented. Since I became the Attorney General of Ogun State I have done more pardon than execution. We haven’t done any execution. It’s not something anyone looks forward to but if it has to be done for the good of the society, that is why I refer to it as removal of moratorium after due process instead of describing it as killings. The government is not a killing machine.
When last was this type of law signed?
I am not aware of such law that had been signed. Honestly I am not aware.
There are about 254 inmates on death row in Ogun State prisons, how soon will they be executed?
Section 370 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Ogun State prescribes for example, if death sentence be imposed, you will have to afford such person the opportunity of agitating for appeal. Where they have not appealed, appeal will be lodged on their behalf, the Court of Appeal will still have to take a look at it, the Supreme Court will have to look at it and come to a decision; even after that the trial judge in accordance with the laws of the land who imposed the death sentence will still render reports to government. The government will have to compare report from the Advisory Council, Prerogative of Mercy which is the body of distinguished and eminent persons that will look at that individual case on merit and having regard as much as is humanly possible relative to matters of reforms of time spent on those on the death rows, and say in Abeokuta prison there are 254 on the death row waiting to be executed. How soon we are going to commence that is not as simple as that; all the processes will be taken through. Because 254 inmates in Abeokuta prison are on the waiting list to be executed doesn’t mean they emanated from Abeokuta, Ogun State, we are not all criminals in Ogun State. In the whole Western Nigeria, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos and Ekiti States, we have two of such facilities, gallows to put into effect death penalty, Lagos State and Abeokuta, Ogun State capital. So what then happens most of the time is that convicts from Oyo and Ondo States on the death row are brought to Ogun State, the tendency is to look at it that they are from Ogun State. Since we are the host community, the spot light tends to be placed on us. It is something that encompasses the whole region of Nigeria, they also bring people from other parts of the country.
What is your major challenge?
My challenge is this: The 254 inmates on the death row waiting to be executed would not have emanated from Ogun State, only a fraction will have emanated from Ogun State. Clemency will not be jettisoned and it is part of what we have to look at in forming a holistic approach towards the issues of prisons and correctional reforms as well as decongesting prisons and making our society a safer and saner place. Those who had committed crime when they do know the laws of the land are effective and in appropriate situation put into place and carried out, it will reduce crime rate in the state.
Where will the death warrant of convicts who are not from Ogun State signed? Is it from the state they were convicted or the state
where the execution facilities exist?
It can never be the government of the state where the execution facilities is situated that carry out the duty beyond his jurisdiction. So what am saying in short is that when a case emanates from a High Court in Oyo State and had gone to the Supreme Court, while the convict is kept in prison, it has to be the governor of Oyo State where the crime took place that will sign the death penalty.
How ready are the government and judiciary when the implementation of this law is visited with petition and protest?
We took into consideration these issues, we considered views from our national and international developmental l partners, I mentioned the well known opinion of the European Union, Amnesty International, United Nations, etc. This society is for us all to make it a better place.
What is your advice to judges and the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA in the fight against corruption?
The judges should be courageous, firm, disciplined and knowledgeable. They must not pander to the antics of senior lawyers, they must not look at the faces of people charged before them, faces of elites, former governors, ministers and give preferential treatment. They should do justice even if heaven falls in accordance to their oath of office, to do justice to all manner of people without ill-will, fear or affection. The NBA had been half hearted, had been ambivalent, I want the NBA to be active, proactive, that is what Nigeria needs. We need a corruption free society, if we have a corruption free society there will be everything for everybody, our courts will be well equipped, lawyers will make more money, the economy will expand and there will be job for young people and reduction in crime. It is in the interest of everyone that we should fight corruption because of corruption we lack resources, money budgeted for roads will be taken away, the roads are bad and so many issues.
For a better society