Moses Akatugba was 16 when he was arrested and accused of stealing three mobile phone Pic: Private
16-year-old Akatugba had toenails pulled out with pliers and was sentenced to death for theft of three mobile phones
A Nigerian torture victim wrongfully sentenced to death for a crime committed when he was 16-years-old has been pardoned following a mass campaign from Amnesty International supporters around the world.
Moses Akatugba, who was on death row following his conviction for stealing three mobile phones ten years ago and was repeatedly tortured into signing a confession, said he felt “overwhelmed” after the outgoing Governor of Nigeria’s Delta State Emmanuel Uduaghan announced last night he had granted him a full pardon.
Moses is a key case in Amnesty’s global Stop Torture campaign
and was also highlighted in the organisation’s recent “Write for Rights” campaign. In total, more than 800,000 people worldwide had asked Governor Uduaghan to commute the death sentence.
Akatugba was 16-years-old when he was arrested in 2005 for armed robbery. He says police officers beat him repeatedly with machetes and batons. He told Amnesty that they tied him and hung him up for several hours, and then used pliers to pull out his toenails and fingernails. He was then forced to sign two pre-written “confessions”.
In a statement following Governor Uduaghan’s announcement, Moses Akatugba said:
“I am overwhelmed. I thank Amnesty International and their activists for the great support that made me a conqueror in this situation.
“Amnesty International members and activists are my heroes. I want to assure them that this great effort they have shown to me will not be in vain, by the special grace of God I will live up to their expectation. I promise to be a human rights activist - to fight for others.”
Moses also thanked the human rights activist Justine Ijeomah - who leads the Nigerian NGO Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation - and Governor Uduaghan for “keeping to his word”. Last October Governor Uduaghan responded to pressure from Amnesty supporters, saying he was looking into the case. He granted a pardon to Moses yesterday on his penultimate day in office.
Amnesty International Africa Director Netsanet Belay said:
“Moses was just a boy when he was arrested and subjected to torture.
“The pardon of Moses Akatugba, who should not have been sentenced to death in the first place because he was a minor at the time of the offence, is a victory for justice and a reminder that people power and human rights campaigning really can make a difference.
“Without the thousands of letters sent in support of Moses by his supporters across the globe, he may never have been granted his freedom.
“Nigerian Governors should commute the death sentences of all death row prisoners in their respective states, including many who are at imminent risk of execution after similarly flawed criminal investigations.”
More than 1,500 on death row
Before leaving office today, Governor Uduaghan also commuted the death sentences of three other prisoners. As Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari takes office, Amnesty is calling on him to immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. More than 1,500 people are currently languishing on death row in Nigeria, including child offenders. In 2013, Nigeria resumed executions when four people were hanged despite a “voluntary” moratorium.