Court awards N20m to Nigeria’s oldest death row inmate

By Ameh Ejekwonyilo

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court of Justice has awarded the sum of N10 million in damages each to a man considered to be the oldest death row inmate in Nigeria, Abu Dennis Uluebeka and Mary Bahago over the duo’s rights that were violated.

The three member panel with Justice Januaria Tavares Silva Moreira Costa (Cape Verde) as the Judge Rapporteur, held that the applicants were subjected to torture while in detention which violates Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and sections 17(2) and 36(6) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999.

The Justices, however, ruled that the applicants failed to prove the relief by that their medical needs were neglected by the Federal Government.

Uluebeka, 90, spent 17 years in Lagos Custodial Centre after he was convicted of murder in 2003, he was released by the Amnesty Committee prerogative of mercy of the Federal Government in 2019 on grounds of ill-heath.

He, however, returned to the regional court demanding the sum of N50 million reparation over the long years of imprisonment under what he termed cruel, degrading and inhuman condition among others.

For her part, Bahago, 50, has spent 20 years in Custodial Centre in Suleja, Niger State, following her conviction for murder, which resulted from a fight.

The Amnesty Committee commuted her death sentence to life imprisonment.

The applications were filed on their behalf by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Management in Africa.

Their application recalled that the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had during the National Economic Summit in February 2018 pronounced the need for the execution of death row inmates in April 2018 as a means of decongesting the prisons. This was re-echoed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami in April 2018.

The applicants claimed that the comments put them in constant fear for their lives, adding that they received several threats of secret execution from the security agencies.

But Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr. Unyime Ebuk, urged the regional court to strike out the case for lack of coherence in their reliefs, adding that their claims cannot be substantiated.

Reacting to the judgement, the president of CSO, Noah Ajare called for the implementation of the decision by the Nigerian authorities.

“We strongly condemn any forms of torture and inhuman treating and call on the Nigerian Government to put machinery in place for the eradicate all forms of torture and human right abuses,” Ajare said.

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