Don’t kill Rev. King, others – Falana

Ebun Francis || Human right activist and respected senior lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN have asked the Lagos State Government not to proceed with the planned execution of Chukwuemeka Ezeugo, a.k.a Rev King and other condemned inmates awaiting execution in the state prisons.

He instead urged Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to commute the death penalty passed on them to life imprisonment.

In a letter dated April 19, 2017, and addressed to Governor Ambode of Lagos State, Falana argued that the planned execution of death row inmates in the state would violate a subsisting judgment delivered in 2012 by the High Court of Lagos State which ruled that it was illegal and unconstitutional to execute the condemned inmates.

Part of the letter read ,“On the basis of the valid and subsisting judgment of the Lagos High Court on the illegality of the execution of the death penalty in Lagos State we urge Your Excellency not to sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner either by hanging, firing squad or any other means whatsoever.

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“In the circumstance, Your Excellency may wish to commute the death sentences of all condemned prisoners in Lagos State to life imprisonment forthwith.”

It will be recalled that the Lagos State Attorney-General, Mr. Adeniji Kazeem, said at a press conference on Tuesday that unlike previous administrations, Governor Ambode would sign the necessary documents to execute those on death row in the state.

But Falana stated that the planned execution would negate the subsisting the court judgment.

According to him, “Although many persons have been convicted for armed robbery and murder and sentenced to death by the Lagos State High Court since 1999 your predecessors did not sign death warrants for the execution of any person on death row.

“Accordingly, all the convicts on death row have had the death sentences imposed on them commuted to life imprisonment.

“It is pertinent to draw the attention of Your Excellency to the case of Ajulu & Ors. V. Attorney-General of Lagos State (unreported) Suit No: ID/76M/2008 of 29th June 2012  wherein the  Lagos State High Court held that while a person who commits murder may be sentenced to death it is illegal and unconstitutional to execute such death sentence by hanging or firing  squad as it will lead to the violation of his fundamental right  to freedom from torture guaranteed by the Constitution. According to the learned trial judge, Olokooba J:

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“…death by hanging and firing squad amounts to a violation of the condemned’s right to dignity of the human person and amount to inhuman and degrading treatment is consequently unconstitutional being violative of section 34(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Section 367 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Lagos State and any other Law which provides for hanging and condemned by the neck till he be dead are accordingly declared unconstitutional. Section 1(3) of the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Act in so far as it seeks to be implemented by the Respondent it is also declared unconstitutional and void.”