- Amnesty International (AI) said it has enough proof that Nigeria has been carrying out secret executions, despite recent assurances by Abuja authorities that they have not executed in years.
The AI said it has uncovered evidence of at least seven executions in the last two years. It fears more might have taken place in the country.
All those executed were convicted in a Kano State court and relocated to prisons across the country, including Jos, Kaduna and Enugu and that death warrants were all signed by the current Kano State Governor, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, Amnesty claimed.
"The Nigerian government has been misleading the world – and they must now come clean on their death penalty record, establish an immediate moratorium on all executions in the country, and fully investigate how something like this could have happened," said Erwin van der Borght, Director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme.
Among the uncovered cases were those of Kenneth Ekhone and Auwalu Musa who were hanged on 30 May 2006 in Kaduna Central Prison after they had been convicted by a Robbery and Firearms Tribunal. They were denied legal representation and opportunity to appeal against the judgment, even though Musa denied he had nothing to do with the crime.
While Salisu Babuga was transferred from Kaduna prison to Jos prison where he was hanged, four other men were also hanged in Enugu prison in 2006.
Believing that one execution has taken place in Port Harcourt prison, Amnesty International expressed its resolve to continue investigations in order to obtain the names of executed persons and the dates of their executions.
On 15 November 2007, a Nigerian government representative at the UN spoke denied the carrying out of any capital punishment in Nigeria in recent year. He said, "punishment only comes after exhaustive legal and judicial processes, including recourse to the supreme court of the land"…"It is thus on record that we have not carried out any capital punishment in recent years in Nigeria."
However, van der Borght found it inexcusable for a government to mislead the world about executions.
"It is inexcusable for a government to mislead about something as serious as the taking of human life, and we are shocked at what appears to be an attempt by the Nigerian government to deliberately deceive the international community," said van der Borght.
Until the latest revelations, it has been widely assumed that no executions have taken place in Nigeria since 2002.
Many of Nigeria's 700 prisoners on death row were convicted by the Robbery and Firearms Tribunals under the military rule. These tribunals denied defendants the right to appeal and their staff failed to inform convicts of their right to appeal at high courts or have legal representation after a civil government took over in 1999.
In 2004, the National Study Group on the Death Penalty agreed that "a system that would take a life must first give justice" and thus recommended a moratorium on the death penalty "until the Nigerian Criminal Justice System can ensure fundamental fairness and due process in capital cases and minimize the risk that innocent people will be executed."
Besides, a Presidential Commission on Reform of the Administration of Justice (PCRAJ) concurred with the views of the study group. The commission believed "the Federal Government and indeed State Governments can no longer ignore the systemic problems that have long existed in our criminal justice system."
Both the commission and the study group said the inmates on death row are "almost exclusively poor and without legal representation."
UN General Assembly will today vote to reaffirm a resolution that calls for a moratorium on executions by the body's Third Committee on 15 November.
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