NON-Governmental Organisations, Community of Sant’Egidio in Conjunction with Life -Wire International Organization on Saturday, marked the 19Th World Day Against Death Penalty with theme ,’Women and the Death Penalty; an Invisible Reality”.
Speaking at the event held at the Holy Ghost Catholic Cathedral, Enugu, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Anambra Newspapers & Printing Corporation( publishers of National Light Newspapers), Awka,, Sir Chuka Nnabuife, wondered why death sentence should be passed on offenders,/ convicts saying that taking life is not the best option.”Taking life is taking life. It is not a best option”.
Nnabuife, who was also a panelist at the event ,spoke on the importance of prerogative of mercy granted to convicts by the government.. He said that ,”perogative of Mercy that are exercised by Judges, Chief Judges of states and by the governors do help and should be encouraged.
Referring to the testimonies of two women who were exonerated from death sentence, Nnabuife said that “somebody lost 26 years of his life , imagine what he would have achieved. It’s a miracle”.
He maintained that there is need to help innocent people convicted wrongly who are lavishing in Correctional Centres across the country.
He said, “there are people whose cases are more than theirs, we must be concerned.. We must look out for those who make a better society.
” Please, we encourage governors now that we are in a civil rule to look into the cases of such people.
According to him, Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano has exercised a Prerogative of Mercy to 146 ex- convicts within seven years in office.
Nnabuife ,an artist and an author noted that one can start a campaign to stop death penalty for convicted murderers. He advised the young people to develop a passion and push for it . ” We mustn’t be lawyers, we mustn’t be relatives of the people who are involved . We must be concerned members of the society and look out for those things that must help the society Those things that would help humanity ,we must also look for those things that will make a better society.”
He recalled his days in the Guardian Newspapers where he encountered a young artist, Arthur, Angel, over two decades ago. He described Arthur as a renowned artist whose creativity drew the attention of the authority and that gained him freedom from “death row ” while in prison.
“Anyone of us can save a situation; anyone of us can be a victim.
“When we see,say. When we feel, express. We mustn’t be the persons who will do the final report. Let there be a contribution that you made that would lead to a better society,”Nnabuife advised.
He said that God leads people to parts where they can help. He recalled how a story he did on a young artist who escaped death helped the society.
Nnabuife assured that he would refurbish his story on “My life in Prison” published in the Guardian Newspapers ,for prosperity.
He commended the Sant”Egidio group for what they were doing to change the society and promised to work with the group.
Speaking, another Panelist, a renowned Artist, who served for Sixteen years in a Correctional centre in Nigeria, for an offence he did not commit and miraculously, escaped death sentence, Arthur Judah Angel , who is also from the Liife-Wire International Organisation, narrated how he was arrested wrongfully at the age of 21 and accused falsely that he killed a policeman, when it was a policeman that wanted to kill him .
Arthur said he visited somebody in the prison and was beaten up by the policemen and charged to court, accused falsely of killing a policeman and was jailed.
He lamented that so many innocent people were imprisoned because they had no one to speak for them He blamed everyone for not speaking against unlawful arrest made by policemen against innocent citizens.
” All of us are guilty. People do not talk when they see police pick up somebody, 450 people were victims”.
Arthur said that God changed his life in prison and he had long forgiven his accusers, people who witnessed against him in the court.
He condemned capital punishment given to women, saying, Capital punishment does not give chance for restoration of life.. I see every government that kills as a killer government.
“It’s only a weak and choas government that gives capital punishment. I condemn capital punishment in totality., Arthur said.
He disclosed that in Life-Wire International, they visit prisons, follow people up before they were granted prerogative of Mercy.
“We equip them before they come out Every person we helped out of prison, will come out and challenge the world” he said.
He frowned that” in Imo state, anyone caught by the police is guilty. We must tell him( governor,) this. It’s not so .
“There are so many innocent inmates in death row in prison. When I was convicted, my name was 203 on the death row.”Arthur said .
He urged people framing other people up to stop doing that. He stressed the need to abolish death sentence , saying that so many were suffering for offences they knew nothing about.
“All the country that abolished death penalty commit less crimes. Jungle justice is another form of death penalty, we must fight against it, he said’.
The State coordinator , National Human Rights Commission, Dr Valentine Mmadubuko in his presentation, stressed the need to abolish capital punishment in Nigeria. He was of the view that when murderers imprisoned should not be given death sentence, rather they should be give life imprisonment.
” Let’s give them opportunity to reflect on what they had done ,” he opined.
Earlier, the National Responsible Community of Sant’Egidio, Prince Henry Ezike, said that the Community of Sant’Egidio is a Voluntary international organisation ,which started in Rome in 1968. It has network of international activities, including campaigns against death penalty, education for the less privilege, help for the aged, succour for prisoners among others.. It’s in different countries including Nigeria.
Highlights of the occasion were witness testimonies by women exonerated from death sentence/ incarceration, video presentation of the Community of Sant’Egidio, unveiling of an art work by a serving inmate and a press release presented on behalf of the groups by Linda Nneka Ebeh of the Cities for Life, Cities Against Death Penalty.