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Activists condemn Aregbesola’s call for governors to sign death warrants

Activists condemn Aregbesola’s call for governors to sign death warrants
July 26
16:10 2021

Two non-governmental organisations focused on criminal justice have criticised Rauf Aregbesola, minister of interior, over his clamour for governors to sign death warrants of condemned criminals.

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On Friday, Aregbesola, while speaking in Osogbo, Osun state, called on the governors to sign the death warrants in order to decongest prisons.

The minister had said there are 3,008 condemned criminals — 2,952 males and 56 females — who are currently occupying correctional facilities nationwide.

He said the nation’s correctional facilities are being stretched by “an overpopulation capacity of 18 percent” — with facilities built to serve 57,278 inmates currently holding 68,747 inmates.

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Reacting to the development, Access to Justice (A2Justice), an NGO that focuses on judicial reforms, argued that human lives are not expendable objects to “achieve a better representation of prison demographics”.

The group said many convicts on death row have pending appeals against their convictions and that the minister’s call will put them at the risk of execution before the determination of their appeals.

“Access to Justice finds this proposal preposterous; it treats human lives as intrinsically expendable objects or commodities which may be dispensed with in order to achieve a better representation of prison demographics,” the group said.

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“But human life – whether of persons under sentence of death or not – is far too valuable than to be used as a means of reconfiguring the prison population, or reducing it, and it is unfortunate that the Hon. minister would make this kind of obnoxious call.

“Besides, A2Justice fears that if the Minister’s call is heeded, many death row convicts who have pending appeals against their convictions will be at risk at execution even before their appeals are determined following administrative errors.”

In the same vein, CELSIR, an NGO that provides rehabilitation to inmates, said it is “disturbing and worrisome” that Aregbesola made such a call, adding that death row inmates are four percent of the population of inmates in correctional centres.

The NGO said the congestion in prisons is due to the high number of awaiting trial inmates — which amounts to 76 percent of the total population.

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“From the given statistics, it is glaring that congestion and overcrowding of correctional centers are due to the high number of awaiting trial inmates which form 76% of the entire inmate population,” the group said.

“CELSIR, therefore, finds it highly disturbing and worrisome that the Honourable Minister has identified the execution of death row detainees who are just 4% of the total inmate population as a viable means of decongesting the correctional centers.

“We expect that the Honourable Minister would have painstakingly addressed the overwhelming issue of delay in the dispensation of justice which has contributed to the high percentage of pretrial detainees.”

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