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Court Sentences Nigerian Man to Death in First-ever Virtual Ruling

The ruling, made during the state’s coronavirus lockdown, saw Olalekan Hameed, a driver, sentenced to death by hanging for the 2018 murder of 76-year-old Jolasun Okunsanya, the mother of his employer. All parties to the case, including the accused, lawyers, witnesses and journalists, took part in the session from different locations via the cloud-based video conferencing service, Zoom. Hameed, first arraigned in court on March 6, 2019, was found guilty of charges of stealing and murder leveled against him by the Lagos State government. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and his trial subsequently began. The virtual court sitting at Ikeja High Court was part of the social distancing measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Lagos has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria accounting for about 42 percent of the 2,950 infections so far. Nigeria has been under pressure from local and international human rights groups to abolish the death penalty. Amnesty International said that the number of confirmed death sentences handed down in sub-Saharan Africa increased by 53% from 2018 to 2019 with Nigeria being among the 10 countries which recorded increases.