Last Monday June 24, 2013, Benin City residents woke up without knowing that a hang man was in town to snuff life out of four death row prisoners: Chima Ejiofor, Daniel Nsofor, Osarerenmwenda Aigbonkhan and Richard Igagu.
Their journey to death began on 26th September 2012, when Governor Adams Oshiomhole signed the death warrants of two of the convicted criminals, Daniel Nsofor and Aigbonkhia; while former Governor Lucky Igbinedion signed that of two others.
The prison where the gallows was situated is along the busy Sapele Road and while the environment may look peaceful, on that fateful day, the prison wardens and the hang man were busy organizing the execution of the convicts.
Barr.Henry Idahagbon, Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice
No doubt, most residents had no idea that the convicts went to court that day to battle for their lives, an appeal which was unfortunately rejected by the Federal High Court. They probably took their last meal after returning from the court and met the awaiting hang man who obviously arrived the ancient city few hours before the execution to do his duty and jet out of the town.
One of them robbed a family, raped the wife and inserted a bottle inside her private part until she died
It would be recalled that the same day Oshiomhole signed the death warrant of Nsofor and Aigbonkhia, he also granted amnesty to two prisoners condemned to death in exercise of his prerogative of mercy.The Governor pointed out that the prisoners, Monday Odu who was sentenced to death for conspiracy and murder and Calistus Ikem, sentenced for conspiracy and armed robbery were granted amnesty because they did not take the lives of their victims.
The Governor also commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence of two others: Tijani Mustapha, convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery; Zubem Abduramma, convicted for conspiracy and armed robbery; while Patrick Ojiefo who was convicted for assault on a police officer while discharging his lawful duty and served 6-months jail term in 1973 was granted pardon.
Speaking after granting amnesty to Odu and Ikem, Comrade Oshiomhole said: “You have been condemned to death for murder but we have exercised the prerogative of mercy to release you from prison for the offence, believing you have learnt your lesson.
You can still be useful to society and useful to yourself. You know the law enforcement agencies are there. If you commit another offence, you know your own is finished. However, having received good reports about your conduct in prison, I believe you can still be a good.”
While addressing Monday Odu, 32, a minor when he was convicted in 1997, Oshiomhole said, “We are letting you off the hook to go and sin no more. We will find a way to find a job for you under the Edo Youth Employment Scheme. You have no reason to return to crime and that means if you do anything again you are completely on your own”.
The governor told Calistus Ikem, 52, who was convicted in 1996 to be ready to work and cope with the rigours of life as he goes back to his family in Imo State.“You stole household items which could have taken your life. The government will give you N200,000 and another N100, 000 to Monday Odu to go and start all over. I hope you will be able to make something positive out of this your present condition”.
But the National Human Rights Commission kicked against the signing of the execution warrant on the two of the prisoners by the Governor, insisting that his action was inhuman. Oshiomhole quickly replied the Commission and Amnesty International that the convicts committed a heinous crime by killing their victims and therefore they didn’t deserve to live.
On 21 October 2012, Oshiomhole faulted the Rights groups and explained why he signed the death warrants.
“Agbomien killed his victim, dismembered his body and buried the parts in different places to avoid detection. When the convict was taken to court, he said his offence was a mistake but the manner in which he treated the body indicated that it was a gruesome, premeditated and wicked act,” he explained.
The Governor quoted excerpts of the Supreme Court judgment upholding Agbomien’s death sentence and according to the apex court, “the likes of Agbomien belong to Hades (hell).”
On Nsofor, Oshiomhole said he approved his death sentence because after robbing his victim, a woman, of her possessions, he subjected her to horrendous torture and thereafter killed her. According to the Governor, “the National Human Rights Commission was wrong.
They must be seen to be painstaking in matters of life and death. They must check their facts right. The state does not exercise mercy on such persons. I decided to free those who didn’t kill to go and sin no more. However, we must send a clear message to criminals that they have no right to kill and live.”
It will be recalled also, that President Goodluck Jonathan had recently directed state governors to sign execution warrants of death row inmates, admonishing them not to shy away from same as it was part of their duties.