Thursday, 25 January 2007

Tochi: Nigerian appeals ignored

The Singapore Government has brushed aside appeals from Nigeria's President and Parliament to spare a Nigerian footballer from execution.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, 21, is set to be hanged in Changi jail at dawn on 26 January for trafficking heroin into Singapore in 2004.

Appeals from Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and House of Representatives have failed to move the Singapore government from its plans to carry out the execution.

'Strong signals' not rehabilitation
Yesterday African newspaper This Day Online reported Singapore's prisons department had defended the death penalty for drug offences.

The Singapore Prisons Department, whose website features the slogan "REHAB * RENEW * RESTART", said in a statement: "The death penalty is imposed for the most serious of crimes, which sends a strong signal to would-be offenders to deter them from committing such crimes as drug trafficking, murder and use of firearms.

"We weigh the right to life of the convicted against the rights of victims and the right of the community to live and work in peace and security," the statement said.

'Earnest' appeals
This Day Online reported on 23 January that President Olusegun Obasanjo had asked Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to personally intervene in the case.

The report said the President wrote to Prime Minister Loong appealing for presidential clemency to save Tochi, citing the "excellent relationship" that existed between the two countries.

"It is for the reason of obtaining your kind pardon and clemency for the convicted Nigerian that I write this letter to you, conscious of the excellent relations that exist between our two countries, to earnestly urge you to reconsider the conviction of the Singaporean Court of Appeal and to commute the death sentence to imprisonment," the President wrote in his letter.

The same day, a House of Representatives plenary held to discuss the case urged President Obasanjo to do everything within his power to intervene in the case.

A motion sponsored by Hon. Halims Agoda urged members of the House and the government to act on the case.

Agoda said: "We as a people and parliament must defend the right of our people in and outside the country. If South African president could rise to the aid of its citizen [Okele Nelson Malachy] who was also convicted with Tochi and his sentence was deferred, the Nigerian government should also do what is right for its citizen."

After the plenary discussion, House Speaker Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari said he would personally convey the message from the House to the President.

In August 2006, Nigeria's parliament rejected a call from the House Committee on Human Rights for it to intervene in the case.

Related stories:
Singapore activists: Rethink death penalty -- 23 January, 2007
Singapore to hang Tochi next week -- 18 January, 2007
Nigeria won't act to save man in Singapore -- 01 September, 2006
Singapore forum against death penalty -- 21 August , 2006

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