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LEDAP to Government: Abolish Death Penalty

As the world marks the World Day Against the use of the Death Penalty with the theme Poverty and the death penalty, a rights group, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, has reaffirmed its position that the abolition of death penalty in law and practice should be the firm desire of the Nigerian government as death penalty was cruel and inhumane treatment, which has no place in modern society.


National Coordinator of LEDAP, Mr. Chinonye Obiagwu in a statement, yesterday, said “We contend that the application of death penalty is discriminatory in Nigeria as it has become a punishment exclusive to the poor in society.

“LEDAP is continually in legal battles with the federal and state governments in its quest to ensure that fundamental rights of citizens are safe-guarded and death penalty is abolished. Currently, we have three cases in court where we are challenging the imposition of death sentences and the proposal of the federal and state governments to execute death row inmates.”

“We urge state governors not to sign any death warrants as it constitutes state murder. With high number of criminal convictions overturned on appeal, continued execution is risky as innocent people may be wrongfully killed.

“We strongly believes that in its practical application, death penalty is discriminatory as there is hardly any rich or influential person in society who is sentenced to death. We contend that the reason for the discriminatory outlook is due to the fact that the rich have the resources to settle the police or afford the best lawyers who ensure they are not convicted.

“LEDAP therefore, takes the commemoration of the World Day Against Death Penalty, to re-live the experiences of the inmates saved from the gallows, inviting freed former death-row inmates to tell their stories in a media parley. It is our conclusion that poverty is a common factor to all prisoners on death row in Nigeria.

“LEDAP beckons on the government at all levels to ensure that they give life rather than exercise eagerness in taking it away while we condemn the recommendation that prisoners on death row be executed as a means of decongesting the prisons.  We believe that the government has a duty to protect and respect the sanctity of human life rather than supervising its termination and recommends a moratorium law be passed against executions in Nigeria.”

In commemoration of the 2017 World Day against the use of death penalty, LEDAP-Legal Defence & Assistance Project hosted journalists and members of the press in a media parley themed “The Exonerated”.

In commemoration of the 2017 World Day against the use of death penalty, LEDAP-Legal Defence & Assistance Project hosted journalists and members of the press in a media parley themed “The Exonerated”. The meeting focused on poverty and the death penalty while taking a retrospect on the lives of persons who have been released from death row by LEDAP and their various experiences. The media parley, which was held at the LEDAP headquarters in Lagos, commenced with introductory remarks by LEDAP’s National coordinator, Mr Chino Obiagwu. Mr Chino welcomed members of the press and all in attendance, introducing the essence of the meeting.


The NJC’S Investigation Of Judges

As a measure of sanitising the judiciary and exhibiting its importance as an arm of government, the investigation of judges initiated by the National Judicial Council (NJC) is commendable. The court has been correctly described as the last hope of the common man, in the face of widespread inequities and inequalities pervading the polity. The court can only deservedly claim that status if the judicial officers presiding over them are seen to be above board.

Therefore, the move by the NJC should be seen for what it is: to ensure that serving judicial officers are indeed above board. The council’s effort is particularly significant in view of various allegations and accusations recently portraying the judiciary as a corruption-ridden sector of government. Although it is recognised that being peopled by human beings, the judiciary cannot but be a part of the society in which corruption is a regular issue. The fact remains however that to prevent the society from going into anarchy, the sector saddled with justice dispensation must consist of men and women beyond the ordinary. In stable and respected societies, judges are seen as being next to God in terms of forthrightness. Nigeria should be no exception.

The NJC, headed by Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen constituted 15 committees to investigate allegations contained in petitions filed against 15 judicial officers, including two Chief Judges. The council took the decision at its 83rd meeting held in Abuja, after considering the reports of two Preliminary Complaints Assessment Committees that reviewed 46 petitions written against judicial officers in federal and state judiciaries.

The NJC also commended the decision of Zamfara State Government approving the council’s recommendation for the compulsory removal of Justice Musa Ibrahim from office. The judge had been accused of receiving a bribe of N200,000 from one Zubairu Abdilmalik allegedly in order to deliver judgement in his favour. The NJC had made the recommendation to Zamfara State Government in 2011. The council at its meeting also took various decisions, including calling for further investigations in some cases, and dismissing others that have no merit.

Certainly the NJC needs to put its house in order so as to be seen as keying into the federal government’s anti-corruption campaign. It is noteworthy that although the council had in the past meted out disciplinary actions against erring judicial officers, judges were in recent times accused of involvement in high profile corruption. Some of them, including from the apex court, were put on trial while others had been absolved of charges against them.

Nevertheless, the incidents put a lot of pressure on the judiciary, as many members of the public went away with the perception that the entire judiciary was corrupt. Moreover, President Muhammadu Buhari had at various times challenged the third arm of government to buy into his government’s campaign, having pointed out that the judiciary was a stumbling block in the campaign.

The NJC’s investigation should be thorough and handled with despatch and transparency, such that officers found to have erred are sanctioned appropriately. Where a criminal offence is established, the NJC’s recommendation should not stop at removing the officers concerned, but also to prosecute them in accordance with the law. Such will serve as a deterrence to other judicial officers who may be tempted to undermine the integrity of their calling.

Where judicial officers are cleared of allegations against them, or where the allegations are found to be frivolous, the officers concerned should be immediately returned to their normal and deserved status. The council of course needs to be careful not to play into the public gallery of those making sweeping condemnation of the institution; or those making false and spurious claims against officers of otherwise high integrity. Many such cases often arise especially for political reasons.

Ultimately, the watchword in the investigation should be justice for all. And the emphasis should be to make the judiciary an institution where indeed the interest of all would be protected, no matter the high or low status of the people concerned. It is only then that the court, or the judiciary, can be convincingly regarded as the bastion of the common man.

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Buhari Calls For Prisons Decongestion, Says It’s “A National Scandal”

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday called for urgent measures to be taken to decongest prisons across the country, even as he described the state of the nation’s prisons as a national scandal.

The president stated this when he hosted a delegation of the judicial arm of government led by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Walter Onnoghen, at the Presidential Villa.

He said the call for decongestion is necessary not only in the interest of justice but to save the cost of prisons’ maintenance and boost the welfare of prisoners.

According to him, it was a national scandal that many prisons were overcrowded by 90 per cent.

On review of the conditions of service of the judicial staff, the president directed the office of the Attorney General of the federation to take up the issue with the Salary and Wages Commission with a view to advising him for prompt action.

He stated that his administration was not unmindful of the challenges facing the judiciary, saying that the increased budgetary allocation to the judiciary in the 2017 fiscal year would be sustained.

Buhari lamented that huge sums were being spent on security, especially in the North East and Niger Delta regions, instead of meaningful development, to better the lives of citizens.

He, however, expressed optimism that God would touch the minds of Nigerians to be patient with the government in its efforts to transform the nation’s economy.

‘Help inmates pay fines to decongest prisons’

Lagos State Controller of Prisons, Mr Tunde Ladipo, on Sunday called on well- meaning individuals and groups to assist inmates in paying fines imposed on them to decongest prisons.

Ladipo made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos. He said that a number of inmates were still in prison for inability to pay fines.

Ladipo urged that prison congestion should be the concern of all stakeholders in the interest of the society.

The controller appealed to stakeholders to come together and fashion out more ways to reduce congestion in the country’s prisons.

He said that the command was holding meetings with the Lagos State Judiciary and some other stakeholders to ensure speedy trial of inmates,” Ladipo said.

He said that the Federal Government was concerned about prison congestion and was making efforts to address it.

According to the controller, the recently launched plea bargain option will also help to decongest prisons.

“We are having meetings with stakeholders, for example, Lagos State Judiciary, because it is of utmost concern,’’ Ladipo said.

He advised officers and men of the Nigeria Prisons Service to be God-fearing and dedicated.

“They have to be focused; they need to have the fear of God because our work is service to humanity,” he said.

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