Presidential Pardon For VIP Convicts Sparks Outrage

There are indications that the National Council of State presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan might have granted a presidential pardon for former Governor of Bayelsa State, DSP Alamiyeseigha and six others.

Alamieyeseigha was Jonathan’s boss while he was deputy governor from 1999 to 2006 before he was impeached by the State House of Assembly, arrested, tried and prosecuted for corruption. He 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.

It was his exit that paved the way for Jonathan to emerge as governor of the state.

President Jonathan is said to have recently described Alamieyeseigha as his political benefactor.

At the end of the NCS meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, journalists were not briefed on the outcome of the meeting, but sources confirmed that the former governor and six others were granted pardons by the council.

“Yes. It is true that presidential pardon was approved for the former governor at the meeting,” one of the state governors at the meeting, who declined being named.

However, the Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako who briefed journalists after the meeting claimed that though the issue of state pardon was discussed, no former governor’s name came up.

Nyako, who spoke in Hausa, said the Council deliberated on the possibility of granting state clemency to certain category of offenders both at state and federal levels.

“No such issue (pardon for errant 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,” Nyako said.

The other names rumoured to have been granted pardons include Gen Oladipo Diya, who was the Chief of General Staff during the reign of military dictator, Gen Sani Abacha and the late Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa, who was a Minister of Works in that regime, both accused of plotting a coup against the dictator; 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, Major Bello Magaji (rtd), Major Segun Fadipe (rtd) and Mohammed Lima Biu.

An official confirmation is still being awaited.

Meanwhile, the rumours have sparked outrage among Nigerians from 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.

Lawyer and activist, Bamidele Aturu, said, “Presidential pardon for criminals is official jailbreak.”

In a statement he released, he went on to say that the government would live to regret the ‘irresponsible decision.’

“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.”

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.”

“It is 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. It also 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.”,” he said.

Social entrepreneur, ‘Gbenga Sesan, said in his tweets, “A nation fighting corruption, and where the Commander-in-Chief has been accused of toying with such, shouldn’t pardon corrupt kinsmen. The timing of this use of (albeit) constitutional power makes it both insensitive and politically dangerous. (This) might heat up the polity.

“For this #PresidentialPardon case, hope for future sanity rests on reaction from organised civil society, Nigerian citizens.”

However, renowned Constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay, said the rumoured pardon was in order.

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.”

The President’s power to grant state pardons is given by Section 175 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which 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.

The Herald NG

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