Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has advised the Lagos State government to not sign a death warrant authorising the killing of any condemned prisoner either by hanging, firing squad or any other means whatsoever.
Falana was reacting to a statement credited to Adeniji Kazeem, the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, who said at a press conference on Tuesday that unlike previous administrations, Ambode would sign the necessary documents to execute those on death row in the state.
According to PUNCH, Kazeem reportedly said the development was at the instruction of Ambode and that the state had begun reviewing the matter after prison officials complained of the highhandedness of some death row inmates who felt that they had certain rights which excluded them from being executed.
But Falana stated that the planned execution would negate a subsisting court judgment.
Falana’s letter dated April 19, 2017 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.
In the circumstance, Your Excellency may wish to commute the death sentences of all condemned prisoners in Lagos State to life imprisonment forthwith.
Although many persons have been convicted of 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, 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 and is consequently unconstitutional being a violation 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 by the neck till death 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 is also declared unconstitutional and void.