Four Nigerians face firing squad in Indonesia for drug offences | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

News, Slider

Four Nigerians face firing squad in Indonesia for drug offences

Posted: Apr 27, 2015 at 12:21 am   /   by   /   comments (0)
Oyatanze Anderson Owolabi Nwolise

Oyatanze                     Anderson                      Owolabi                          Nwolise

As the government of Indonesia concludes arrangements for the execution of several foreign drug convicts today, four Nigerians are on its death row.

They are: Martin Anderson, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Jamiu Owolabi Abashin and Okwudili Oyatanze.

Anderson is a 50 year old, who was arrested in Jakarta in 2003 on a charge of possessing about 1.8 ounces of heroin and was accused of being part of a local drug ring. Anderson was also alleged to have traveled to Indonesia on a fake Ghanaian passport and has been incorrectly identified as Ghanaian. He was sentenced to death in 2004.

According to his lawyer, Kusmanto, who like many Indonesians use one name, Anderson was shot in the leg during his arrest, a method the Indonesian police are sometimes known to use when apprehending a suspect  and remains bothered by the wound to this day. Anderson has been in poor spirits since being transferred to Nusakambangan Island for execution, Kusmanto said.Anderson has filed for a judicial review of his conviction and death sentence with the Supreme Court, but his lawyer said he feared the court would not consider the appeal before he is executed.

Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise is 47 years old and was arrested in Indonesia for smuggling heroin. His story, as narrated by his wife, is similar to those of other Nigerians on Indonesia’s death row for drug trafficking. He was unemployed in Lagos and was lured to Pakistan by fellow Nigerians on the promise of a job with good wages. On getting to Pakistan, instead of a job, he got an offer to swallow some capsules filled with goat horn powder.

Arrested in 2001, Nwolise was convicted the following year of bringing 2.6 pounds of heroin into the country, and was sentenced to death. His wife also explained that during his trial, Nwolise had no translator, and his Indonesian lawyer could barely communicate with him, adding that a Judge, through an intermediary, offered to sentence him to prison rather than death if he paid a bribe of 200 million rupiah, worth about $22,000 at the time. “But he was just a poor courier. He didn’t have any money,” his wife said.

In January, the Indonesian police accused Nwolise of running a drug syndicate from prison. No charges were brought, but his wife, who claimed emphatically that her husband is innocent of the accusation, believed it resulted in his being placed in the group of inmates now facing imminent execution.

Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 50, was arrested for smuggling heroin. He was living on the streets of Bangkok in 1998 when a fellow African living there took pity on him and brought him home. Shortly, according to Mr. Abashin, his new friend asked whether he wanted a quick-paying job, in which he would get $400 for bringing a package of clothing to the friend’s wife in Surabaya, Indonesia, where she sold used shirts and pants.

“The package contained nearly 12 pounds of heroin, and he was arrested after landing at Surabaya’s airport.” Abashin, who was traveling on a false Spanish passport, contended he was duped. He was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison, which was reduced to 20 years on appeal. State prosecutors challenged the sentence reduction before the Indonesian Supreme Court, which in 2006 sentenced Abashin to death.

In a request for presidential clemency in 2008, he admitted knowingly smuggling the drugs. The request was denied in January. The Indonesian government refers to him as Raheem Agbaje Salami, the name on the fake Spanish passport he was using when he was arrested.

Ursa Supit, an Indonesian legal activist who is advocating on his behalf, said that because he had no money, he was assigned a state lawyer for his trial and had no legal counsel when he appealed to the Supreme Court. Abashin, who now has a lawyer, is challenging the rejection of his clemency request.

Okwudili Oyatanze, 41 year old, is a singer and was arrested in 2001 while trying to smuggle 5.5 pounds of heroin through Jakarta’s international airport, in his stomach, after arriving on a flight from Pakistan. He was convicted the following year and sentenced to death and has made the most of his incarceration, writing more than 70 songs and recording multiple albums behind bars. He has performed with prison guards as well as fellow inmates.

In a musical video, shot in 2008, Oyatanze sang his song “God You Know”, which was also the name of an album he released that year. “He has turned his life around in jail”, said a Catholic priest, Rev. Charles Burrows from Ireland, who now lives in Indonesia and is offering religious counseling to Oyatanze as he awaits execution.

Raised in south-eastern Nigeria, Oyatanze started a garment business in 1999, traveling to Indonesia to buy clothing and resell in Nigeria. The business later collapsed, and he got into debt. He later traveled to Pakistan to try to revive it, at the suggestion of a fellow Nigerian living there. The plan involved swallowing capsules of heroin before boarding a flight to Jakarta.