A Nigerian court sentenced a man to death by hanging him in the country’s first-ever virtual ruling through Zoom videoconferencing platform during the lockdown. Lagos judge Mojisola Dada sentenced Olalekan Hameed to death for the murder of his employer’s mother in 2018. It is still not clear whether Hameed will appeal against the sentence or not.
“The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you be pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court," Justice Dada is quoted as saying.
The virtual hearing, which lasted almost three hours, was attended by all participants from different locations to contain the spread of coronavirus. All court sittings except urgent ones were suspended even as people were allowed to go back to work on the first day of easing of restrictions.
While the judge joined the video link from Lagos High Court in Ikeja, Hameed joined from Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison, and the lawyers joined from elsewhere. According to media reports, the death sentence in Nigeria is usually not carried out but the courts continue to order it for various crimes.
Amnesty International said in its report that at least 5,731 people were known to be on death row in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2019 of which Nigeria and Kenya accounted for 65 per cent of that total. The human rights organisation highlighted that people under sentence of death are particularly at a heightened risk of execution when they have exhausted their right of appeal and there is no official moratorium on executions in place in their countries.
“Even where a right of appeal has not been exhausted, a lack of access to effective legal representation; lengthy delays in the appeal process; denial of clemency; and poor prison conditions can make life on death row a particularly harrowing experience for any human being,” opined Oluwatosin Popoola, Legal Adviser at Amnesty International, in a column.