Trafficker 'had every chance to fight death penalty'

Convicted drug trafficker Chijioke Stephen Obioha, who was hanged last Friday, was given every chance to fight his death sentence, including applying for re-sentencing, explained the Court of Appeal in judgment grounds released yesterday.

Instead, the Nigerian decided not to be re-sentenced, and launched an 11th-hour bid last week to stay the execution by arguing the eight years he spent on death row amounted to cruel and inhuman punishment.

Highlighting that this latest argument could have been brought up at earlier hearings over the last year, the Court of Appeal said the 11th-hour bid's only purpose was to prevent the carrying out of his sentence, and amounted to an abuse of process.

Chijioke, 38, was found guilty and sentenced to death on Dec 30, 2008 for trafficking in 2,604.56g of cannabis here. His appeal was dismissed in 2010. When the review of the mandatory death penalty was conducted between 2011 and 2013, Chijioke was given a stay of execution. For two years after, he was given a chance to be re-sentenced under the new regime which gives judges the discretion not to impose the death penalty.

He repeatedly refused to do so until a sudden U-turn in May last year, after he lost a last-minute bid to overthrow his conviction. After several hearings on his re-sentencing, he abruptly withdrew his application in August this year.

On Oct 12, he was informed that his stay of execution would be lifted on Oct 24, and that he had till Oct 21 to show there was a good reason not to. Instead, he filed his latest claim on Nov 16.

Wrote Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, who sat in the Court of Appeal alongside Judge of Appeal Tay Yong Kwang and Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng: "A moment's reflection will reveal that, quite apart from there not being any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, the applicant has been guilty of an abuse of process, as we have already stated."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Trafficker 'had every chance to fight death penalty''. Print Edition | Subscribe