Former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has said that the granting of pardons to Alamieyeseigha and the former Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Alhaji Mohammed Bulama is capable of stopping the war against corruption.
He described the pardon as very discouraging, saying, “I believe that corruption still remains the biggest problem confronting Nigeria. We should not do anything that will take us back. The action by the government is capable of stopping the entire war.”
He recalled that these two cases were prosecuted during his time as EFCC chairman.
“These are two corruption cases I personally investigated, prosecuted and got the convictions. They were the first convictions we got in the country through regular courts and not military tribunals.
“For them to have been pardoned, it is more or less like giving them amnesty. It is a sad development, very unfortunate, capable of negatively affecting the fight against corruption.”
The former EFCC chairmen said that the pardons would embolden those who are corrupt.
“It is sending a message that if you are found to be corrupt, ultimately nothing would happen to you. You will be clean. You will be pardonned. It will embolden those who are corrupt.”
Ribadu said that the pardons would send a negative message to the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
“The message that is being sent to the judiciary and the law enforcement agencies is a very negative one. It is a discouraging one. Like most Nigerians, I am disappointed in this development.”
Ribadu stated that the pardon would not affect the pending cases of Alamieyeseigha in the UK.
“He still has cases there. I do not think the pardon would be extended to the UK.”
He recalled the case of former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori who was convicted in the UK after his case was treated shabbily here.
Ribadu also criticized a presidentiala aide, Dr Doyin Okupe, for justifying the pardon granted the former Bayelsa State Governor.
He said the comments by Okupe were not only unfortunate, but unfair to Nigerians, who have suffered and are still suffering from corruption.
“There are 150 million Nigerians who have suffered from corruption. Saying Alamieyeseigha has suffered enough is very unfortunate,” he said.
Okupe had earlier on Monday said that the action was not the unilateral decision of the President but that the decision was considered and approved by the NCS, a body constitutionally empowered by the 1999 constitution.
He gave the composition of the Council to include the President, Vice-President, all former Presidents, former Chief Justices of Nigeria, all state governors and the leadership of the National Assembly. Thus, he said that the Council does not make decisions on impulse.
He said that the granting of the pardons should not be unduly politicized, and that the eight persons who were pardoned had their cases thoroughly deliberated upon by the Council before the pardons were approved.
Okupe said that the idea of the pardon was not for the innocent, but for the guilty who have been found guilty of some offences and have either finished serving their sentences or were in the process of serving them.
He added that the framers of the constitution envisaged the need for some ex-convicts to be reintegrated into the society, especially if they have shown repentance and willingness to contribute positively to the society.
He again went on Channels Television on Wednesday to defend his boss, saying the President did no wrong in granting the pardon.
He said, “The relationship between the President and Alamieyeseigha is not hidden. The granting of pardon was not by Jonathan per se, but by the highest constituted authority in Nigeria; this is not something I need to defend. They don’t need me to defend them; I defend the actions and activities of the President when necessary.
“This is an action of the National Council of States and I have no apology for that. We must begin to respect and honour our institutions. I don’t need to defend the action that has been taken.”
When asked whether he did not feel that a presidential pardon for Alamieyeseigha would cast a shadow of doubt for the present administration’s anti-graft war, Okupe wondered what more Nigerians wanted after the former governor had been impeached and convicted for corruption.
He asked, “Is it because it is Alamieyeseigha? Is it because he is from the Niger Delta? Is it because he is the former governor of Bayelsa State? Is it because he is a friend of the President? I mean, what are we talking about?
“A man has been found guilty and jailed. A Yoruba adage says, ‘If you ask a thief to run and he runs, and you ask him to drop what he stole and he drops it, what are you chasing him for again?”