Twelve years on death row in Nigeria – Botman’s testimony

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Twelve years on death row in Nigeria-Botman’s testimony

© Botman Oraeku

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This song was composed by Botman Oraeku, former death row inmate from Nigeria. Botman was arrested on 3 August 1982, when he was 15 years old, for a crime committed by his brother.

He was sentenced to death on 8 December 1988. His appeal against the death sentence was not considered for over 16 years. He was finally released on 4 April 2004 after spending almost 22 years in prison, twelve of which on death row.

Here is Botman’s account of his time on death row:
“I was 15 years when I was arrested for a crime committed by my senior brother. He escaped custody. So the police said, while your brother escaped, you be here for him. After six years my case was tried. I was given a legal aid counsel.[...] In court, they said I collaborated with my brother. I said no. They said I should keep quiet. My brother gave a written statement that I was innocent but the prosecution said it was not evidence since he was not there. I had to bear the cost.

When he was giving his judgement the judge tried to disbelieve everything of my evidence. Finally he said you are sentenced to death, may your soul rest in peace. It was like something went out of me. I said what, is this man a human being at all? What am I going to ask this man, to have mercy on me? For what? I did not do anything wrong. My counsel stood up and said, ‘Please consider his age, he was 15 years. Temper justice with mercy.’ I immediately filed an appeal. After spending 16 years in there my appeal has not come up in the court. I was still waiting.

Enugu prison is bad, completely bad. Nothing good comes out of there. Many innocent people died there. About 15 times I made my will. ‘take this, take this; I am sure I am going’. One in the death row dies daily. Once you live till 2 in the afternoon, and the execution did not come, you can begin to celebrate your day.

On death row I became a singer. The inspiration came to me out of pains, when I was bitter, when I had no person to consult my things. After many years of doing nothing, waiting for the hangman, living in fear, I began to make some music for myself. In 2004, April, finally I got my release.”