Man sentenced to death in Nigeria’s first online court ruling

The accused, lawyers, witnesses, journalists participated remotely via the Zoom application. (Twitter pic/dailyreportng)

LAGOS: A Nigerian court sentenced a man to death in the country’s first-ever virtual ruling during a five-week coronavirus lockdown.

Lagos judge Mojisola Dada on Monday ordered death by hanging for Olalekan Hameed, a driver, over the 2018 murder of 76-year-old Jolasun Okunsanya, the mother of his boss.

“This is the virtual judgement of the court,” she said.

It was not immediately clear if Hameed would appeal.

Under Nigerian law, state governors have to approve death sentences before they can be carried out.

Local and international rights bodies have repeatedly called on Nigerian authorities to expunge the death sentence.

Hameed was arraigned in March last year on a two-count charge of murder and stealing. He pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, all the parties to the case, including the accused, lawyers, witnesses and journalists participated in the session remotely from different locations via the Zoom application.

The new coronavirus has so far infected 2,802 and claimed 93 lives in Nigeria.

The bulk of the infections and fatalities occurred in Lagos and the nation’s capital Abuja, prompting President Muhammadu Buhari to impose a five-week lockdown on both cities.

The lockdown was relaxed on Monday to enable residents return to work but with strict instructions to comply with all restrictions and safety rules, including the mandatory wearing of face masks and social distancing.

Buhari has also called for speedy trial of cases as well as the decongestion of prisons and detention centres to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

He said 52,226 of the 74,127 prisoners in the country were awaiting trial.