International advocacy group Amnesty International (AI) has accused the Lagos state government of planning to carry out hurried executions of prisoners on death row.
The organisation made the accusation in a press statement released by its UK branch on Friday, April 21.
The statement seen by VON said AI had received information that the state government planned the killings at Kirikiri where gallows have been allegedly set up.
The group advised the government to reduce the death sentences to life imprisonment or other lower sentences.
It read: “Amnesty International has received disturbing reports from inmates at Kirikiri prison in Nigeria that gallows are being prepared at the jail and that one prisoner has been taken into isolation, possibly in preparation for execution.
“Amnesty is urgently calling on the Nigerian government to commute all death sentences in the country to terms of imprisonment and immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.
“On 23 December, three prisoners in Nigeria were put to death in Benin Prison, Edo state. Their executions were carried out despite the fact that one of them – Apostle Igene – was sentenced to death in 1997 by a military tribunal, and never had an appeal.
AI noted that the alleged setting up of gallows followed a statement by the Attorney General of Lagos State Adeniyi Kazeem during a press briefing on 18 April indicating that the state government would soon start signing execution documents.
The statement also quoted Amnesty International’s Nigeria Researcher Damian Ugwu as saying:
“The indications that Kirikiri prison authorities may be gearing up for a string of executions are deeply alarming. The death penalty is an outdated and cruel punishment which violates the right to life.
“We also have serious concerns as to whether many of the inmates on death row have received a fair trial. The Nigerian police are overstretched and under-resourced and tend to rely heavily on coerced ‘confessions’ rather than investigations.
“In some cases, death sentences are handed down on the basis of statements signed under torture.
“The Nigerian authorities must halt these executions immediately and establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.”
Amnesty International also raised the alarm over the huge rise in the number of death sentences handed down by the Nigerian courts.
It reported: “Last year, Nigeria handed down 527 death sentences – three times more than it did in 2015 – the highest number anywhere in the world, excluding China where information on the death penalty is a state secret.
“Lagos State imposed the highest number of death sentences (68), closely followed by Rivers State with 61, according to official records provided by the Nigeria Prisons Service.”
VON recalls that the Lagos State Government recently confirmed that it was set to execute General-Overseer of the Christian Praying Assembly Chukwuemeka Ezeugo aka Reverend King.
PM News reported on Tuesday, April 18 that barring last minute change King and others on death row in Lagos prisons would be hanged very soon because the government was ready to sign their ‘kill’ documents..