Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha
There was anger at the headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party in Abuja on Wednesday over the decision of the National Council of State to pardon some very important persons convicted of corruption and other offences.
Some officials of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wondered the kind of message the Federal Government, controlled by the party, is sending to Nigerians with the action.
The party officials were particularly angry that a former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Dipreye Alamieyeseigha was among the beneficiaries.
They queried the rationale used by the President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the party’s national leader, in presenting the list of the people to the Council for pardon.
The former governor was convicted of corruption after undergoing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission under the leadership of its former chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.
Jonathan was Alamieseigha’s deputy when the latter was governor of Bayelsa State.
Apart from the former governor, others people who were listed as beneficiaries of the pardon were Gen. Oladipo Diya, who was the Chief of General Staff during the reign of military dictator, Gen Sani Abacha; former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Mr. Shettima Bulama, who was also convicted of fraud; and former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Gen Musa Yar’Adua.
Also said to have received the pardon was the former Works Minister, the late Maj.-Gen Abdulkareem Adisa, who was found culpable in the alleged coup that landed Diya in prison.
A member of the PDP National Working Committee, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the party was surprised “when news filtered on Tuesday about the government action.”
He, however, said he and his colleagues thought it was a “rumour” since no government official commented on it on Wednesday.
While he said the party was not bothered about the pardon granted the former military officers, he said their inclusion in the list was just to give the government action some “touch of morality.”
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the NWC had yet to debate it and that the party also heard of the action through the media.
Metuh said, “I can tell you truthfully that the National Working Committee has not discussed this issue. As other Nigerians, we have read the decision of the Federal Government and we have been informed about the decision of the Federal Government through the media. For now, the party has no comment on this matter.”
Meanwhile, opposition political parties, civil rights groups, lawyers as well as the organised labour particularly condemned the pardon granted to Alamieyeseigha.
They also frowned on the statements credited to the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe.
Okupe was quoted as saying the President had “no apologies” for exercising his constitutional powers of granting the pardon.
National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change, Rotimi Fashakin, said, “For as long as Okupe has this appointment, we should not expect anything better.
“Nobody should be surprised at the way Okupe has decided to go about this. He can only work in an environment where there is so much sheer impunity.
“He has been a man that thrives in working with bosses who operate with impunity. He cannot work where there is true democratic governance.”
Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders through its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran, said the pardon to Alamieyeseigha was another proof that the present administration was corrupt.
The group said, “President Goodluck Jonathan is proving every Nigerian right by the hour that he is not only rudderless, but corrupt to the teeth.
“It is unthinkable that a presidential pardon could be handed a common thief like Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who bled his state’s coffers white during his tenure as the governor because such pardon is only given for political offence not criminal.”
President General of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Peter Esele, said the decision was a setback to the nation’s campaign against corruption.
He said granting state pardon to convicted felons, who committed acts against the state, was not in the interest of this administration and the country.
Esele said the President had a responsibility to disclose the information which he relied upon to grant presidential pardon to the affected persons.
Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Chief Mile Ahamba, Chief Awa Kalu and Mallam Yusuf Ali, also spoke on the pardon.
While, Ahamba and Ali noted that the action was not proper, they expressed reservations at its timing.
According to Ahamba, the decision to pardon the former governor has cast doubts over the seriousness of the anti-corruption campaign.
Ali said the pardon granted Alamiesiegha contradicted the spirit of the Federal Government’s war against corruption.
Kalu said the development was in order, as long as Jonathan exercised his powers lawfully.
He said, “It is not a question of whether it is proper; it is a question of whether the President had exercised his powers in a lawful manner in granting pardon, not just to Alamieyeseigha, but to the other persons concerned.
“If that power has been exercised in a lawful manner, I am afraid nobody can question it.”