The Pan Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, activist, Bamidele Aturu, Festus Keyamo, former Governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa and others have slammed President Goodluck Jonathan over the move to grant ex-convict and former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha presidential pardon.

Jonathan was the Deputy Governor in Bayelsa when Alamieyeseigha was governor of the state and he profited from Alamieyeseigha’s fall to ascend to the governorship position.

Alamieyeseigha was convicted for acts of corruption perpetrated while in office and even jumped bail in the United Kingdom and escaped to Nigeria.

According to Afenifere, the move by Jonathan was the final confirmation that “we have an immoral leadership at the helm of affairs of the country.”

Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Yinka Odumakin said, “Nigeria is now seen as a crooked nation. In the last 14 years, people, corrupt people are being pardoned; it is a violation of our values and downgrading of our moral ethics.”

Activist, Aturu, in a statement said, “one cannot put such unthinkable gambit beyond this government or our elite, knowing their lack of interest in waging any war against corruption, serious or otherwise.

“Presidential pardon to those who were convicted, not of political offences but for dipping their dirty fingers in the common till, and pauperising hardworking Nigerians in the process is nothing but jail break by the state.”

“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,” he stated.

In his reaction, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said; “For the  avoidance of doubt,  Dr. Doyin Okupe said it was the Council of State that pardoned the convicts and not the President.

While some of the persons involved in the exercise may be deserving of pardon it is pertinent to point out, without any fear of contradiction, that the Council of State lacks the power to grant pardon to any person convicted of a criminal offence in Nigeria. Being an advisory body the Council of State cannot usurp the powers of the President to exercise the prerogative of mercy on convicted persons.

“To that extent the decision of the Council of State to pardon certain members of the ruling class is an exercise in futility. It is illegal and unconstitutional. Our authority for this submission is anchored on Section 175 of the Constitution which provides as follows:

‘“The president may – 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; 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;

‘Substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; or  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.

‘The powers of the President under subsection(1) of this section shall be exercised by him after consultation with the Council of State.

‘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.’

“In view of the foregoing it is crystal clear that the power to pardon any criminal suspect or convict who has committed a federal offence is vested in the President. The power cannot be shared with the Council of State by the President. Therefore, President Goodluck Jonathan should be courageous enough to exercise his prerogative of mercy on persons deemed fit for amnesty after due consultation with the Council of State.”

Founder, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, CACOL, Debo Adeniran said the pardon “is a way to confirm that the present government is not fighting corruption.

“All other people pardoned are hinged on Alamieyeseigha; Jonathan does not take corruption as a serious crime. Pardon should be restricted to political offences and not people convicted of corruption,’ he said.

Balarabe Musa lamented that with the current move, the president is not fighting corruption, saying that the anti-corruption crusade is all deception.

Reacting, Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo described the pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and ex-banker, Shettima Bulama, as highly unpatriotic and the “height of insensitivity of this government to the feelings of Nigerians about the war against corruption.

“It is shocking, confusing and disheartening that at a time when the general mood of the country indicates that the war against corruption is insincere, slow and a sham, the President deems it fit to even rubbish 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.”

Keyamo said the pardon by the president teaches no bitter lesson to thieving and corrupt public officers but rather encourages corruption at the highest and the lowest levels of public office, adding that the decision to grant them pardon itself “is corruption par excellence. I condemn it.”

President of Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Shehu Sani, said though some of the listed Nigerians deserved pardon, extending the pardon to Mr. Alamieyeseigha and other public officers who were found to have corruptly enriched themselves while in office was unfortunate.

He said the president intentionally added other names to shade his decision to pardon the former Bayelsa State governor.

According to him, “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.”

He said there was no reason why the National Council of State should grant pardon to those who were convicted under the military regime with those who enriched themselves in public office.

—Kazeem Ugbodaga, Eromosele Ebhomele & Yisa Jamiu