The controversial death penalty which has mostly lied dormant in the country’s statutes has been invoked by the High Court in Sekondi which has sentenced the kidnappers and eventual murderers of four girls in Takoradi to death by hanging.
Presiding Judge, Justice Adjei-Frimpong read out the sentence to Samuel Udoeituk Wills and John Oji after a seven-member jury had found the two guilty of the murders.
This sentence is very likely to provoke a stand-up objection from human rights organizations, especially Amnesty International, which has over the years been in the forefront of the campaign to have countries expunge the death penalty from their statutes.
Meanwhile, the sentence does not automatically mean that the sentenced reprobates are automatically going to face the hangman’s noose. First of all, they have a right of appeal within 30 days.
If they fail to appeal or appeal but do not get the appellate courts to overturn their sentence, then they will have their fates left in the hands of President Akufo-Addo who must sign the death warrant before the hanging takes place.
Over the years, Presidents have refused to sign such death warrants out of respect for human life and the fear that they would be playing ultimate God by doing so. But in this case, President Akufo-Addo is going to be under serious pressure to sign the death warrant because of the emotions surrounding the case.
Udeotuk Wills and John Oji were charged for kidnapping and murdering Ruth Abakah, 19; Priscilla Blessing Bentum, 21; Ruth Love Quayson,18 and Priscilla Koranchie, 15 – the so-described, Takoradi girls.
Their victims who had been captured at different locations; including Kansawurodo, Butumagyebu, Nkroful Junction all in Sekondi-Takoradi of the Western Region, were probably used for money rituals.
After they had gone missing between July and December 2018, a pattern of smuggling girls was established and the people of the Western Region became restless, demanding for the government to apprehend the perpetrators and deal with them.
Police investigations had been lukewarm at first, but the issue caught national attention and political ramifications for the Akufo-Addo government soon became clear.
In response, the Police had launched investigations and soon skeletal remains of people long dead and decomposed were discovered at a number of locations. However, family members of the victims who said they did not believe the skeletal remains belonged to their loved ones rejected the explanation.
Their subsequent demands for the remains to be released to them so they can undertake their own DNA tests were refused by the Police which took samples from them for DNA tests that the Police themselves had arranged.
Because of this blip, some family members today still insist the remains that were discovered did not belong to their loved ones. Francis Bentum, grandfather to Priscilla Bentum insists he knows his granddaughter is still alive somewhere.
Even so, the Police investigation had first led to Udoetuk Wills, and then later, John Oji.
The Seven-member jury found them guilty of kidnapping all four girls and subsequently murdering them. The Presiding judge accordingly sentenced them to death by hanging.