Posted by News Express | 11 June 2015 | 3,318 times
A teenager, Moses Akatugba, who was arrested, tortured, convicted and eventually sentenced to death by hanging for stealing three GSM handsets in 2005, has regained his freedom.
Also, the quartet of Williams Ewediana, Akpos Samuel Martins and Onyeka Emordi have their death sentence commuted to jail terms.
The immediate past Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, granted the inmates state pardon on May 28 — a day before leaving office upon the expiration of his second four-year tenure.
Moses was finally released on June 2, when his discharge warrant was delivered to the Warri prison.
This was contained in media statement from Human Rights, Social Development and Environmental Foundation (HURSDEF), endorsed by its Executive Director, Justine Ijeomah and Attorney, Aluzi K. Ayibasienghe.
The group averred that the juvenile was wrongly sentenced to death by hanging for a crime he denied committing at the age of 16, in 2005.
“When he was arrested for armed robbery and was beaten repeatedly with machete and batons; hung up for several hours, used pliers to remove his toe nails and finger nails. Moses, who was on death row following his conviction of stealing three mobile phones 10 years ago, was repeatedly tortured into signing a confessional statement.”
“The pardon of Moses Akantugba, who should not have been sentenced to death in the first place, because he was a minor at the time of the offence, is contrary to sections 11 and 221 of Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003.
“A system that seeks to take life must give justice. And the Nigerian criminal justice system cannot give justice to the poor who cannot afford a good legal practitioner,” said Ijeomah.
She recalled: “The process of releasing Moses is on course: These few words by the former governor of Delta State last year, fuelled the great expectations of HURSDEF and its partners – Amnesty International, among other right activists world over – who lent their voices in sending over 500,000 letters, tweets, and messages on Facebook to the governor, to save the torture victim before handing over to a new government.”
The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to probe police officers who falsely increased the age of minors involved in crime with a view to charging them as adults.
It also pleaded for the cancellation of death penalty against juveniles whose ages were falsely increased by the police and wrongly charged as adults.
HURSDEF expressed appreciation to all the parties that played various roles in securing the release of Moses, especially EU delegates and foreign missions in Nigeria.
•Photo shows Moses Akatugba.
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