Obasanjo urges Singapore not to hang Nigerian man

ABUJA, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo asked Singapore’s government on Tuesday to grant repreive to a 21-year-old Nigerian man due to be executed for drug smuggling.

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi was arrested at Singapore’s Changi airport in November 2004 with 727 grammes of heroin. He is due to be executed on Friday after his appeal to Singapore’s president for clemency failed last year.

“It is for the reason of obtaining your kind pardon and clemency for the convicted Nigerian that I write this letter to you … to earnestly urge you to reconsider the conviction of the Singaporean Court of Appeal and to commute the death sentence to imprisonment,” Obasanjo said in a letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Obasanjo’s appeal came after Saudi Arabia executed a Nigerian man in December for smuggling cocaine into the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Human rights group Amnesty International has also called for clemency for Tochi, saying the judge who convicted the Nigerian “appears to have accepted that he (Tochi) might not have realised that the substance he was carrying was heroin.”

The drugs were estimated by the authorities to have a street value of $970,000.

The drug laws of the island nation of 4.4 million people are among the harshest in the world. The death penalty is mandatory for anyone caught with more than 15 grammes of heroin.

Government officials say the location of the city-state close to drug-producing countries forces it to take a tough stance on smuggling.

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