The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to commute to prison term the capital sanction imposed by an Abuja High court on Mr. Tope Abiodun for theft of Android phone device.
HURIWA in a statement on Sunday by the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to exercise his powers as enshrined in section 175 of the 1999 Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria (as amended) on the Prerogative of mercy.
The Rights group said the death sentence was disproportionate to the crime committed just as it stressed that since there was no fatality as a result of the criminal action of the convict it doesn’t make sense logically to terminate his life just for pilfering a phone device that is worth just some few thousands of Naira.
HURIWA recalled that recently a 23-year-old boy identified as Tope Abiodun, was sentenced to death by hanging by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) for stealing an android LG phone valued at N87, 000.
But the group said it was contacted by an anonymous Nigerian who pleaded that the life of this convict must be spared given that he is a first offender and also that the gravity of the said crime is not worth sacrificing the life of the crime convict.
Part of the statement read: “We are in receipt of an electronic mail from a concerned Nigerian who pleaded with human rights organisations such as ours to speak out and urge the Federal Government to tamper justice with mercy.”
“Analysing this particular matter has shown that the execution of this sentence if allowed would make Nigeria look like a primitive cave whereby life means less than an android tablet phone which is worth less than one hundred thousand Naira. This sentence is an expression of the lowest respect for the sanctity of human life. We urge strongly for the commutation of this harsh sentence.”
The Rights group said the harsh verdict by Justice Chizoba Orji of Apo high court FCT Abuja sentencing the 23 years old Tope Abiodun (from Kabba Kogi state)to death by hanging for stealing an android LG phone valued at N87,000 naira is disproportionate and inappropriate and should be revised by the President through the exercise of the constitutional prerogative of mercy by commuting his death sentence to few additional months of reformatory incarceration given that he has already spent four years awaiting trial.
The Rights group wants the government to reform the boy and give him a startup pack so he can be gainfully employed in a vocational skill so as to more constructively contribute to the building of a better society for all.
HURIWA stated that it is unjust and unfair that a young Nigerian should be hanged to death for a petty crime that cost no life in a country where those that Looted billions that were meant to make life easy for such Youths from being tempted to survive through stealing are out there roaming the streets in freedom.
“We wonder why this petty theft should be slammed with the capital punishment whereas government officials both past and present who stole Nigeria blind and who indeed are continuously pilfering public fund when caught are usually rapidly granted bail even as they are permitted to deploy the proceeds of their criminal activities in public offices to obtain the best legal services at huge costs”.
The Rights group said it was reliably informed that the convict Mr. Tope fluently speaks Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa languages and that he has transformed since he was imprisoned four years ago even as he was described as a humane Nigerian that will assist visitors with their luggage down to cells of those they came to visit in Kuje prison.
The Rights group also affirmed that the group was reliably told that Tope is a good boy who should not be allowed to die.
HURIWA further stated: “Like the concerned citizen has stated we are joining him to appeal to well-meaning Nigerians, clergies alike to come to the aid of Tope Abiodun who has an ageing mother and was not born to see his father alive which explains the grinding poverty that surrounded his upbringing.
“We learnt that Tope Abiodun committed this crime when he was 18yrs old, even as Tope confessed to the concerned citizen that the pressure to feed with his younger siblings pushed him to do it. We learnt also that probably he did that as an ignorant young boy out of the normal juvenile delinquency stage in our lives.”