Nigerians have reacted angrily to the state pardon granted some convicted corrupt public officers yesterday by the National Council of State, NCS.
Those who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in separate telephone interviews said by granting them pardon, the country will never get it right in its fight against corruption.
Among the beneficiaries of the pardon are former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha under whom President Goodluck Jonathan served as deputy governor; former Managing director of the Bank of the North, Mohammed Bulama; former Chief of General staff, Oladipo Diya and; former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua who died in prison in 1997.
Mike Ahamba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) described the pardon as “ridiculous”, adding that the crusade against corruption has once again been dampened.
“I dey laugh o,” Mr Ahamba said derogatorily. “This is why corruption can never stop in this country. Just quote me like that. It speaks volumes of what is going on.”
President of Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Shehu Sani described the pardon granted Messrs. Yar’Adua, Diya and others who were alleged to have plotted coup “as a step in the right direction.”
He, however, faulted the NCS for extending the pardon to Mr. Alamieyeseigha and other public officers who were found to have corruptly enriched themselves while in office. According to him, the pardon to the alleged coup plotters was merely a decoy to pardon the former Bayelsa State governor.
“There is an indication that granting pardon to Yar’Adua, Diya and others is a decoy to pardon Alamieyeseigha and other corrupt persons. There is a clear indication that including Diya and Yar’Adua is to give credibility to the pardon of godfathers and friends of the President.
“There is no reason why the NCS should grant pardon to those who were convicted under the military regime with those who enriched themselves in public office,” Mr. Sani said.
National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Rotimi Fashakin said the pardon was “laughable.”
“That pardon is as laughable as granting posthumous pardon to Ishola Oyenusi, Anini, Monday Osunbor and other dare-devil armed robbers who terrorised Nigerians in the 70s and 80s.”
In his reaction, Lagos lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, in a statement entitled: “Presidential Pardon is official Jailbreak: So don’t Dare!” said if the government succeeds in pardoning the former governor, “the government and its members will certainly live to regret the irresponsible decision. That is a promise.
“Civil society groups will do all in its power to show the whole world that those who claim to govern us are nothing but common crooks who deserve to be in jail. In my view, it is better to fling open the gates of all our prisons and ask all the inmates to walk out into the warm embrace of their relatives than pardon those who force otherwise decent Nigerians to take to crime as a way of life. A word is enough for the wise.”
Debo Adeniran, President of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACO) said “The reason for the pardon Alamieyeseigha who President Jonathan served. It is a graphic illustration that the President is corruption compliant. It is a confirmation to Nigerians that he is not ready to fight corruption. That is why he could involve corrupt people in his government.
“Alamieyeseigha is his former boss and so it is a payback time. It is left for Nigerians to take the gauntlet and know what to do about corruption.”
In a statement, Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo said the pardon granted Alamieyesegha typifies the height of insensitivity of the present federal administration to the feelings of Nigerians about the war against corruption.
What the constitution says
Section 175 (1) says: The President may (a) grant any person concerned with or convicted of any offence created by an Act of the National Assembly a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions;
(b)grant to any person a respite, either for an indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; or
(c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; or
(d) remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the state on account of such an offence
2) The powers of the President under subsection (1) of this section shall be exercised by him after consultation with the Council of State
(3) The President acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, may exercise his powers under subsection (1) of this section in relation to persons concerned with offences against the army, naval or air force law or convicted or sentenced by a court-martial.