A Nigerian footballer Chijioke Stephen Obioha was executed in Singapore on Friday morning for drug trafficking in the Asian country.
The hanging of the striker was brutally carried out after the Court of Appeal dismissed a motion filed by his lawyer and pleas for clemency were rejected.
The 38-year-old was executed at Changi Prison after his eleventh-hour appeal was rejected by the apex court.
His parents and family in Nigeria were informed at dawn of his execution after his lawyer failed to secure a stay of execution on Thursday.
His lawyer filed a criminal motion in court for a stay of execution and to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment on Wednesday but it was dismissed on Thursday which paved the way for the striker's hanging.
Obiaha, who has been in Singapore since 2005, was in the country for trials with some clubs before anti-narcotic police busted him with cannabis as his attempts to land a club in the country failed.
He was arrested in 2007 with 2,604.56g of cannabis in his possession with the amount surpassing the statutory amount of 500 grams that under Singapore law triggers the automatic presumption of trafficking.
The graduate of the University of Benin in Nigeria, also had on him keys to an apartment where hard drugs are kept, which lead to the authorities to pronounce him guilty as charged.
He has been in prison since his arrest which prompted various international bodies to wade into the matter seeking that the death sentence should not be carried out.
Amnesty International had called for clemency citing that his offence did not fall under the category of most-serious crime but this was turned down by Singapore which is notorious for using the death sentence to punish drug-offenders.
“This morning, at 6am, the execution of Chijioke Stephen Obioha took place. I am not even sure if his family from Nigeria were able to attend. Soon it will be all forgotten together with Chijioke’s name, but for the many of us who fight and campaign to eradicate this barbaric practice of death by hanging, and for those of us who challenge the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking in Singapore, our work will go on. And it must.” Anti-Death Penalty Campaign member , Mr Ravi posted on his Facebook wall.
"I’m currently arranging with the Roman Catholic Prison Ministry ( RCPM) to claim the body of Chijioke from the Singapore Prisons Service for a proper funeral in accordance with his religious beliefs.The funeral will take place either today or tomorrow depending on how soon the SPS could release the body. Will keep you posted.”
Amnesty International wrote: “After the rejection of his clemency appeal in April 2015, his execution was set for May 15, 2015. It was stayed a day earlier to allow him apply for resentencing. “His family were only informed on October 25, 2016 that he had resolved to withdraw his application for resentencing earlier in the year, following legal advice that he would not qualify as “courier” under the amended laws.
“Consequently, the Court of Appeal lifted the stay of execution with effect from October 24, resulting in the execution date to be set for November 18.
“Chijioke Stephen Obioha graduated in Industrial Chemistry from Benin University in Nigeria. He moved to Singapore in 2005, seeking to join a football club. His family members, who currently live in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, have been unable to travel to visit and had limited ability to assist him.
“Throughout the duration of the proceedings, they have received sporadic and often delayed updates, including when a legal representative was removed from the case.” The Roman catholic prison ministry claimed the body of Chijioke following the execution."
Obioha was convicted of trafficking in 2.6kg of cannabis - more than five times the capital limit of 500g - and sentenced to death in 2008.
He appealed against his conviction and sentence, but it was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2010. After death penalty laws were amended in 2013, Obioha was asked if he wanted to be considered for resentencing but declined, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) said.
But before he was scheduled to hang in May this year, Obioha changed his mind and decided he wanted to submit new evidence and be considered for resentencing. The Court of Appeal rejected his request but ordered a stay of execution to allow him time to file an application for resentencing.
However, Obioha withdrew his resentencing application three months later. The court subsequently lifted the stay of execution.
On Wednesday, two days before his execution, Obioha again submitted an appeal for a stay of execution and to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment. The appeal was heard and dismissed by the court on Thursday.
CNB said in a news release on Friday that Obioha “had been accorded full due process under the law”. Two petitions to the President for clemency filed by him and by the High Commission of Nigeria had also been turned down, CNB said.