The Nigerian Correctional Service denied representatives of the Nigerian Bar Association access to Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, the musician who was sentenced to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed.
The National Publicity Secretary of the NBA, Mr Ralpulchukwu Nduka, said this in a statement on Thursday..
Following an exclusive report by The PUNCH that Sharif-Aminu was being denied access to his lawyers, therefore, denying him the opportunity of appealing the death sentence, the NBA set up a fact-finding committee.
The association said on getting to the prison in Kano State, they were not allowed to see the convict.
The statement read in part, “The President of the Nigerian Bar Association – Mr. Olumide Akpata, in response to the allegations on the social media by Nigerians and calls by members of the Nigerian Bar Association on the Federal Correctional Centre, Kano to allow Yahaya Sharif-Aminu have access to his lawyers, set up a two-man Fact-Finding Committee made up of the NBA 1st Vice President – Mr. John Aikpokpo-Martins and the National Welfare Secretary – Mr. Kunle Edun. The committee was mandated to urgently embark on a fact-finding mission to the Federal Correctional Centre in Kano.
“On September 2, 2020, the 1st Vice President and the National Welfare Secretary visited the said Correctional Centre and sought audience with the Controller of the Correctional Centre.
“At the Correctional Centre, the NBA National Officers were informed that the Controller of the Correctional Centre was not available. They were granted an audience by the second in command.
“The NBA national officers informed the said second in command about their mission at the Federal Correctional Centre, Kano. They requested to see Yahaya Sharif-Aminu in order to ascertain the veracity of the allegation that lawyers were not allowed to gain access to him.
“The said second in command informed the said national officers that he does not have the authority to grant the access sought, but would seek the permission of his boss, the Controller (who was not available as at the time of the visit) before allowing the National Officers access to Yahaya Sharif-Aminu. The afore-mentioned national officers were eventually denied access to Yahaya Sharif even after the said second in command made the call to his superior.”
The NBA said it was able to confirm The PUNCH report that indeed, Sharif-Aminu was denied access to his lawyers even as the deadline to appeal the death sentence lapses on September 9, 2020.
“However, the said national officers were able to confirm that Yahaya Sharif-Aminu has been denied access to any lawyer since his conviction. They were further informed that Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was not represented by a lawyer during the trial at the Upper Sharia Court,” the NBA said.
The association said since the visit was a fact-finding mission, it would take further steps in ensuring that the convict is given the requisite opportunity to exercise his constitutional right of appeal and his right to be represented by a lawyer of his choice.
Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had expressed readiness to sign the convict’s death warrant once the 30-day deadline lapses.
When contacted on Thursday, the Spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service, Austin Njoku, however, said it was not true that lawyers were denied access.
Njoku said, “The comptroller of Kano State command was on air yesterday and he stated clearly that no one was denied access. The lawyer should follow the proper channel if they want to see him (Sharif-Aminu).”
The musician, who is a resident of Sharifai in Kano metropolis, was accused of committing blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020. Irate youths burnt down his family home and led a protest to the Sharia Police, Hisbah, demanding Sharif Aminu’s death.
The musician, who went into hiding, was arrested, hurriedly tried, and convicted for breaching Section 382 (b) of Kano penal code of 2000 which is based on Islamic law.
Some human rights lawyers in Kano told this newspaper that many lawyers were refusing to take up Sharif-Aminu’s case because of the volatile nature of Kano State.
However, global rights group, Amnesty International, had said in a statement that the musician, from all indication, was not given a fair hearing.
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