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Afolabi: Chief Judges should sign warrant for capital punishment


Olayiwola Afolabi

Olayiwola Afolabi

Olayiwola Afolabi is a lawyer and human rights activist, who has handled several criminal cases in Edo State, including the controversial arrest and detention of environmentalist, Rev David Ugolor over the killing of Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary to the then governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. He spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU

Do you support capital punishment?
I support death sentence, even God in the Holy Writs approves it in the Old Testament. So, when you see the heinous crimes committed by armed robbers and kidnapers, you will be shocked. They will kidnap a woman, rape her and still kill her, and then you expect such people to go scot-free? No they should not go free, I support it totally.

Some people are of the opinion that state governors should be relieved of the power to sign death warrants. Do you subscribe to this position?
I agree with the stand of those agitating that the power to sign death warrant should be removed from state governors and be handled by the Chief Judge. In so doing, the Chief Judge will be exercising the power of the court. The beauty of it is that when it is capital offence, it passes through various stages before such sentence is given, that is from the High Court to Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court.

Most of these politicians use these boys for their political campaigns and when they are caught committing such crimes as armed robbery or kidnapping, you see them coming to their aides, commuting the death sentence to imprisonment. There was a community leader in Edo State who committed an offence warranting capital punishment, he lost in the High Court, he lost in the Court of Appeal, the man also lost in the Supreme Court, but when we got to the point for execution, they wrote a letter to the State House of Assembly, to set aside the decision of the courts.

So, by the time you remove the power to approve death warrant from the politicians, such thing will not happen. If you leave lawful orders in the hands of politicians, they will mess it up and as such encourage lawlessness. Somebody has been condemned to death, he has been there for ten years, a governor comes to power and leaves him to go. Justice is not only for the society; it is also for the victim and also for the accused person.

Some states have proposed death penalty for kidnapping, but the crime is still on the increase, what is responsible for this?
It doesn’t mean that when a crime carries death penalty, those involved in it will stop. Some of these criminals are hardened. Even if it carries hanging publicly as a punishment, people will still do it, but it doesn’t stop the law from taking its cause. Some people are hardened criminals, while some when they go for prison term they will change for the better, they will become remorse. I know of a pastor, I won’t mention his name. He was in Oko Prison, he stole his company’s money and he was sentenced to prison, he repented while in prison and when he came out, he went and paid the money he stole. He did restitution and now he is a pastor. So, there are some people that will go there and be reformed, while others will go there and still be planning to commit more crime. But there is international campaign against death penalty by various human rights groups, shouldn’t Nigeria be part of it?

The moment you begin to allow some of these foreign bodies to interfere with our system, you will have issues. For instance, can you allows gay marriage in Nigeria? But over there they allow it, the Supreme Court in America allowed for gay marriage, but it will not work here. So, we should not allow some of these bodies to influence us, because some of their views are strange to our own laws and practices. Imagine somebody who killed a fellow human being and cut off his head, then will you allow such a person to just go? If you allow some of these things, it can result to jungle justice when the people feel the law will be lenient on such criminals. When the people feel the law is not taking care of victims, they can take the law into their hands and burn people alive because they will feel if they go to the police, they will not get help.


There is death penalty law in Edo State, but no action on this since the law was signed by former Governor Adams Oshiomhole.
You see, in other states like Anambra, the governor and the Commissioner of Police supervise the demolition of houses used by kidnappers, but here in Edo State, we don’t know what is going on. I am aware some people have been condemned to death for kidnapping, but sometimes, some things may stall the action. Investigation is key and it is the police that is supposed to come out with the information because a judge will not go out to investigate, a judge will not know which building was used to kidnap and sometimes they use the forest, they use somebody’s farm and you cannot now go to destroy the farm. But I am aware that just last week, police arrested some people in a house with their victim in Ozah, so these are issues police should take up, that house should be taken over by government.

Cultism still thrives in Edo State and there is this impression that the laws against cultism are not strong enough to get conviction.
Cultism is very difficult, even for the police to trace. You have to rely on information. It is not an easy thing and most of these cult members are used by politicians during elections. That is why you find it difficult to trace them. You can’t know a cultist without being told. It is very challenging because you don’t know them, they know themselves.

Government should find a way of creating jobs. Look at Anambra State, they did not take any loan, but they are self-sufficient. Look at pumpkin leaf, South Korea, Japan, China come to Anambra State to buy this leaf. We have more land than Anambra here in Edo State; let each ocal government establish farm settlements to engage these young people. Government should create incentives and make it lucrative like it is done in Europe and America. It is a matter of ideas because ideas rule the world. Look at Ehor, every time you see people coming to take pineapples away, if Anambra can do it, Edo can do and it will check criminality.

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Olayiwola Afolabi
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