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Who Deserves To Die?

Author: Fatima Waziri
Posted to the web: 10/25/2005 6:37:15 AM

Last week, a most horrendous and barbaric phenomenum was visited on the psyche of Nigerians with the gruesome murder of an infant by an irate mob who accused him of child kidnapping. FATIMA WAZIRI ventilates the angst of most Nigerians who were traumatised by the dastardly act even as the police is being challenged to fish out the culprits “To support the death penalty as sound social policy strikes me as grossly misguided. Not only does the death penalty not deter murder, it fosters a culture of brutality, risks international condemnation, and transforms our country into a brutal pariah.” -Judge Rudolph Gerber of the Arizona Court of Appeals- Just like every other day, on Monday, October 17, 2005, I was in front of my television at about 10.00pm watching the news on channels TV. I was confronted by a very grotesque and disturbing image titled “extreme lawlessness” which left me sick in my stomach and tears in my eyes the callous, brutal, hellish, sadistic and dehumanising killing of an eleven-year-old minor called Samuel. He was accused of attempted kidnap of a child and was mercilessly beaten and burnt alive by people who at that time were probably possessed by God knows what. How could anyone in the right frame of mind burn anybody alive?With death staring at Samuel in the face and an offer of mitigation by the mob in exchange for a true confession that he (Samuel) indeed attempted to kidnap the child, Samuel cried out begging and rebutting the accusations but all fell on the deaf ears of murders, who felt they had the ultimate power to take his short life on earth. I am not in the best position to say whether he was innocent or not. He just didn’t deserve what he got. The boy was merely a child. None of the perpetrators had the right to do what they did. It was against all moral and ethical standards laid down by God and man.Question? What right does a mortal have in taking another mortal’s life? Answer? NONE. Our religious books state that  “thou shall not kill” and any man who goes against this is an affront of God himself. Against this back drop, this takes me to the issue of the death penalty we still have in our statute books, which obviously has been and is still being misused by Nigerians. The law enforcers see this as an avenue to kill at will, irate mob and militant groups use its veil to carry out instant verdict on victims. At the dawn of the 21st century, the death penalty is considered by most civilized nations as a cruel and inhuman punishment. It has been abolished de jure or de facto by 106 nations, 30 countries have abolished it since 1990. However, the death penalty continues to be commonly applied in other nations. China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States and Iran are the most prolific executioners in the world. Indeed, the US is one of six countries (including also Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen), which executes people who were under 18 years old at the time they committed their crimes. In recent years, the debate has been further fuelled by the use of new technologies, which have shown that a large proportion of people sentenced to death are, indeed, innocent. The Constitution which is the grund norm of the land, provides for the right to life (Section 33 of 1999 Constitution) but this life can be infringed upon in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which such person has been found guilty in Nigeria. In Samuel’s case, a minor, he wasn’t taken before any juvenile court, nor was he found guilty. This clearly deflates the wordings of the Constitution.Nigeria has practiced the application of death penalty for more than five decades. HURILAWS’ comparative analysis of the practice of capital punishment shows that in the world over, there are flaws in its application, which is enough to bring about its abolition. By capital punishment, the government is blatantly saying that an accused person is not fit to live.Analysing the circumstances surrounding Samuel’s death only brings to the fore that Nigerians think it is okay to just kill someone they think is guilty of a supposed offence. This mindset needs to be changed and the citizenry needs to be re-oriented that no body has the right to take the life of other. Rather, when situations like these arise the law enforcers should be informed the carry on. Samuel’s death is one of the many that happen every other day in Lagos. In the past weeks, burnt or mutilated bodies of supposed robbers where seen around town.Samuel’s death should not be handled lightly, the perpetrators should be brought to book and charged with murder. The police should disperse people whenever they see a formation of an irate mob. Nigerians should be their bother’s keepers at all times. One person would have saved the life of that little boy if they had gone to report the incident to the police rather than stand by watchingKudos should be given to the brave person who recorded the happenings. I am still shaken by what I saw on television and the images are still fresh like yesterday. Nigerians should please stop this irrational killings it is monstrous. Anyone could fall victim of this jungle justice • Fatima Waziri Writes from the Human Rights Law Service, the Secretariat of the Nigerian Coalition of Death Penalty Abolition (NCDPA)

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