Outrage, yesterday, greeted the rumoured state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former head, Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama, by President Goodluck Jonathan as Nigerians described it as a shame and a set back to the fight against corruption in the country.
This came as Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State who spoke in Hausa to some journalists at the end of the closed door meeting of the Council of State said the Council did not discuss the issue of amnesty to adherents of Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah Lid da’awati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, and other convicts, saying such would have raised political tension in the country.
Others who were rumoured to have also been granted state pardon include late former Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Council, and brother of the late President, Major -General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; former Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya; Major Bello Magaji (rtd); Mohammed Lima Biu; Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa (post humous) and Major Segun Fadipe (rtd).
The anger began early, yesterday, when rumour started in the morning on the social media that the Council of State, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan, had granted state pardon to his former boss and BayelsaState ex-Governor, Alamieyeisegha.
Alamieyeseigha was detained in London on charges of money laundering while he was governor in September 2005. He escaped from the UK in December 2005. He, however, pleaded guilty in court to a six-count charge in July 2007, and was sentenced to two years in prison on each count charge.
Bulama was investigated and later prosecuted for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Presidential pardon, official jailbreak—Aturu
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.”
It’s shocking, confusing and disheartening—Keyamo
Condemning the alleged pardon, another Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo, in a statement said the rumoured pardon “teaches no bitter lesson to thieving and corrupt public officers. It encourages corruption at the highest and the lowest levels of public office and the decision itself is corruption par excellence.”
Keyamo described the rumoured pardon as “shocking, confusing and disheartening” at a time when the general mood of the country indicates that the war against corruption is insincere, slow and a sham.”
Keyamo went on to say that the alleged President’s effort rubbishes “the very little work that has been done by the anti-corruption agencies in securing the conviction of these individuals. It is also disturbing that at a time when Nigeria is still ranking very low in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International the President has further damaged the image of the country by this singular act.”
Another commentator, Comrade Akinloye Olusegun Oyeniyi, asked: “If an Alams can get a state pardon, why not for a Saro Wiwa?”
In Yenagoa, President Goodluck Jonathan on December 12 described Alamieyeseigha, as his political benefactor and that his former boss brought him into political limelight.
Pardon in order —Sagay
Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, said the rumoured pardon was in order. Speaking with Vanguard on telephone, Sagay said: “Let us start from Abdulkarem Adisa who tried to overthrow the late Sani Abacha. What he tried to do was salutary for the country. In other words, what he did was something very positive and very welcome. So, the pardon is a good gesture.
“In the case of Alamieyeseigha, he was convicted, he spent time in prison. As far as I know, quite a number of his assets were confiscated because there was plea bargaining. He has paid the price for what he did. Time has passed and maybe in recognition of the role he played as a stalwart of the South-South, trying to promote their struggle to what I call national enslavement, in a way, he deserves it.
“Dipo Diya comes under the same umbrella as Adisa and so I support it. I think all together, the position taken today was benevolent and very positive. I have nothing against it at all.”
Our morals have gone to the dogs—Afenifere
Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, described the pardon as one done in bad light.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard, National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said: “We are back in the days of Babangida. In the Babangida days, when they wanted to pardon some crooks and criminals, he would tie it to the time he wants to release Beko, Gani Fawehinmi and the rest of them. Only, this time around, a similar thing is being done.
We should grant some dead robbers state pardon — CPC
National Publicity Secretary of Congress for Progressive Change, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, in his reaction said: “From the look of things, I think it is time for Nigeria to grant a post humous state pardon to some people like Isola Oyenusi, Anini and others who were robbers in the 1970s. I also think we should apologise to those robbers that are dead now and accord them same constitutional pardon. This rumoured pardon on Alamieyeseigha, Diya and others is laughable and it shows the kind of leaders we have in this country.”
We didn’t discuss issue of state pardon —Nyako
“We didn’t discuss the issue of amnesty to Boko Haram adherents. It could be controversial to raise such issues. What needs to be done is for the matter to be extensively deliberated before a universal decision is brought into public domain,” Governor Nyako said.
He refuted stories making the round that the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha was granted state pardon by the Council. Instead, he said the Council deliberated on the possibility of granting state clemency to certain category of offenders both at state and federal levels.
According to him, “no such issue (pardon for erring governors) was discussed. I didn’t see the name of any governor. But we considered the issue of state pardon for people who committed certain offences.
“We observed that in cases of manslaughter, pardon for such should be handled by state governors if they are committed in such states. But if it is the case of armed robbery the Council may decide to grant pardon or the matter could be referred to the President for his consideration.”
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.