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Hanifa: Kano Govt Yet to Sign Tanko’s Death Warrant, More Than 90 Days After

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Friday, 28 October 2022 marked the expiration of the 90-day window for Tanko Abdulmalik, the killer of Hanifah Abubakar to appeal the death sentence handed to him by the Kano State High Court.

Five-year-old Hanifa was kidnapped, killed, and buried in a shallow grave by her school’s proprietor, Tanko Abdulmalik on 4 December 2021.

As the three-month appeal window expired last month, I examine the aftermath of the ruling and the Kano State government's next line of action.

Residents Threaten to Protest Failure to Sign Warrant

Tanko Abdumalik and his accomplice Hashimu Isyaku were sentenced to death by hanging on 28 July 2022.

Three months after, I visit Hanifa's school - Nobel Kids Academy - and observe that the owner of the building is renovating it into residential apartments.

Hanifa School cropped

The school’s annex at Tudun Murtala, Nasarawa LGA where Hanifa was buried remains closed.

Hanifa School annex cropped

Residents around Hanifa’s parents’ home are threatening to stage a protest if the state governor fails to sign Tanko’s death warrant.

“He (Tanko) has been convicted. I don’t know why they are wasting time to sign the death warrant,” says a resident, Usman Usman.

Another resident, Abubakar believes that the “Kano government should swiftly sign the death sentence so that others can learn from it.”

And yet another resident, Idris Idris flares up.

“if someone does something bad, he should be punished. We will protest if they don’t sign it,” he threatens.

Hanifa’s father, Abubakar Abdulsalam dissuades the call for a protest.

He holds back tears while appreciating the solidarity, and appeals to the public to give the government the benefit of doubt in this case.

“Our hands are folded just waiting to see the next line of action from the governor,” he says.

“He promised that at the end of this litigation, he is going to sign whatever judgment is passed.

“I believe he will stand by his words, I’m waiting for him.

“Whoever consults me about protest, I will calm him down, tell him that Hanifa’s case is a peculiar case.”

Governor Ganduje’s Promise to Sign Tanko’s Death Warrant

Hanifa’s death sparked nationwide outrage in January 2022, prompting the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje’s assurance to sign Tanko’s death warrant if passed by the court and brought before him.

The state Commissioner for Justice, Musa Lawal restated the governor’s assurance when he featured on Wazobia FM, Kano shortly after the court’s ruling.

He had said the governor was only waiting for the appeal window to fulfill his promise.

"I want to assure you 100 percent that if they do not appeal, the governor is more than ready to sign the death warrants of these people condemned in this case," the commissioner said.

Musa further assured of a speedy process, if the judgment is appealed.

"We have not heard anything about appeal up till this moment. We are just waiting to see whether they'll do that.

"If they don't do that, we will go straight and do the needful.

"But even if they appeal, we are going to pursue it to ensure that in the very shortest time, we will be done and justice will be served at the end of the day."

Tanko’s Counsel, Kano Govt Mum over Death Sentence, More Than 90 Days Later

When approached to confirm if an appeal has been filed on the matter, the Legal Aid Council of Nigeria which provided a pro bono lawyer for Tanko declined to comment on the matter.

Similarly, the Commissioner for Justice, could not be reached despite several attempts.

A Director of Public Prosecution at his ministry who identified herself as Mrs. Rabiu said the commissioner was out of town and that she could not speak on the matter.

Governor Ganduje’s assurance may not sound convincing to some residents as he had in August 2016, suggested that the law mandating state governors to sign death warrants should be amended and reassigned to the Chief Justice of Nigeria.

The governor had alleged that “the issue of signing death warrant is a judicious process that is suspicious.”

He appealed that the issue is “looked into constitutionally to find out what measures can be put in place so that people are not being killed and to discover later that they are not supposed to be killed.”

Since 1999, only the former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, and Edo State former governor,Adams Oshiomhole have signed death warrants for the execution of death row inmates in Nigeria.

They did so in 2006 and 2012 respectively.

Lawyer Says Appeal Still Possible

A Kano-based lawyer, Maryam Ahmed Abubakar with the Center for Awareness, Justice, and Accountability(CAJA) says Tanko’s counsel still has the grace to file an appeal despite the expiration of the three months.

“Despite that Tanko hasn’t appealed and his time had elapsed, his lawyer still has some time to approach the court and appeal for more time to gather all that is needed to file an appeal,” she clarifies.

She also believes the government has the prerogative to sign the death warrant.


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