By Chukwudi Nweje
Amnesty International (AI) has asked Kano State governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje to immediately and unconditionally release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, the 22-year-old singer sentenced to death by a Shari’a Court in the state. It urged the governor to refrain from signing any execution warrant as such violates Sharif-Aminu fundamental rights and breaches Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In a letter to Ganduje signed by Marlies Brenken, AI said the death penalty violates Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
“The use of the death penalty for blasphemy violates Nigeria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which restricts the use of the death penalty to the ‘most serious crimes’, which according to international law are crimes that involve intentional killing. No one should ever be sentenced to death or executed,” AI said.
Sharif-Aminu, presently detained in Kano prison and awaiting execution was arraigned before a Shari’a Court in Kano on August 10, 2020, and sentenced to death by hanging over the circulation of a song via WhatsApp considered blasphemous. The state government on August 27, 2020, published a statement that it would not hesitate to sign the warrant for Yahaya’s execution.
AI condemned both the trial and sentence on grounds that the process was not fair and the singer was not allowed legal representation. It accused some influential indigenes of the state of mounting pressure for the immediate execution.
It added, “There are concerns about the fairness of Yahaya’s trial and the framing of the charges against him based on his WhatsApp messages. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Before and during the trial, he was not permitted legal representation.”
The imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life and hasty trials undermine the ability of convicted persons to seek effective remedies for inadequate legal representation. l ask you to refrain from signing any execution warrant for Yahaya Sharif-Aminu. I call on you to release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu immediately and unconditionally.”
AI lamented that the 2004 National Study Group on Death Penalty and the 2007 Presidential Commission on the Administration of Justice both stressed that the Nigerian Criminal Justice system cannot guarantee a fair trial and called for a moratorium on the death penalty.