Nigeria may be on the threshold of a major international condemnation as almost 500 underage prison inmates are being lined up for execution and death by hanging in an effort to decongest prisons across the country.
The decision follows a Federal government directive that a fast-track process of inmates papers should be embarked upon to decongest the nation’s a prisons in order to forestall a future calamity in the event of a major prison population explosion.
There are serious indications that the order is causing ripples in international community especially among the Human Right Activists in Nigeria and beyond..
The decision has thus pitched the FG against several Civil Society Groups prompting a petition by the allied groups. The group condemned the action of the government reminding that it contradicts the United Nations (UN) charter.
In London, reactions have been aired as youth organisations are squaring up to notify appropriate international civil Right Organisations to wade into the matter.
A voice lending report by Nigeria based National Daily expressing the dilemma of the government over the matter cried out: ”Children are leaders of tomorrow and so must be protected and treasured, but then, what happens when they are caught in criminal acts?. Should they be spared or make to face the full wrath of the Law?
It has been the contention of the Newspaper that many of the casees that sent the youths to prison were awash with irregularities and unfair trial.
Under-age inmates currently topped the list of those awaiting the hangman’s noose.
According to National Daily, many of the cases that brought the youngsters to court were not well assessed and properly handled by the police while the courts that sentenced many of the victims handled the cases without due processes and accountable precisions.
Many of the cases had been given ramshackle approaches and therefore were not properly handled by before the the trial judges.
Also, it should be noted that Police at times erred in their judgement to prosecute cases and act unilaterally to protect their interest irrespective of the victim guilt or innocence. Many of the cases acted upon in the death penalty submission may have been handled in ramshackle manner before being charged to court.
According to sources, the decision by the FG to execute those on death row as a way of decongesting the nation’s prisons was taken at a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), on Tuesday June 15, 2010.
The meeting presided over by the Vice President Namani Sambo later resolved that the 36 State Governors should review all cases of death row inmates and sign the execution warrants as a means of decongesting the country’s prisons.
According National Daily’s investigation, the June decision was the second time in two months the governors were given instruction to consider the signing of the death warrants of many inmates so that they could be disposed of.
A similar decision was taken in April, during a meeting of the Council of State, where 36 Governors were in attendance with President, Jonathan Goodluck presiding.
As Civil Society groups are now taking up the matter, many State Governors are hesitant in passing the execution papers and relevant death warrants which gives orders of the executions
Already, over 890 inmates are currently waiting for death penalty in total and they now while some in condemned to hang are waiting for the hangman’s rope.
Many civil rights activist in Europe are taking the government to task , asking many of our political actors if they are not guilty of negligence in not taking due care of Nigerian youths.
“ Devil finds job for an idle hand hand. Has the government taken up its responsibility in motivating the youths of Nigeria, asked Terry Babalola, a youth worker in London.
Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue state voicing for the Council of States in a cautious move had asked the Nigerian state governors to exercise restraints in their handling of all cases of those on death row.
The governor categorically advised that there should be no rush in signing the death warrants in order to be sure that innocent victims are not executed unduly.
He was quoted to have conscientiously expressed that he would not want to sign the death warrant of someone who would be disturbing him in his sleep at night.
A source at the Nigeria’s Minister of Internal Affairs in Nigeria playing down the story put the total prison population in the country at 46, 000, while 30,000 are sai to be awaiting trial.
The source confirmed there are approximately 870 death row inmates currently in Nigeria’s prisons, including women and juveniles.
However, source had said that there are concrete indications that hundreds of those awaiting execution on the natiopn’s prisons did not have fair trials and may therefore be innocent.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Nigerian Bar Association Human Rights Institute and other Nigerian human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs] are reportedly joining hands in mounting a pressure against the mass execution plan.
Youth organisations home and abroad are said to be meeting over the hgovernment decision so that they can respond apprppriately.
Michael Olamide, a Nigerian law student in London said:” Nigerian youth is the worse treated in the entire world. They are all left to fend for themselves as id they there is no government in the country. Many of those passing the laws, especially the governors are more guilty of mass murder having ignored the Nigerian youths and sending them to untimely death. How can they pass a judgement to condemn Nigerian youths to deat