The presidency on Wednesday said the recent pardon of two former governors, serving long jail terms and other convicts will not hamper the Federal Government’s anti-corruption war.
Last week, the Council of State, chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari met and meeting last week and cleared ex-Plateau State governor, Joshua Dariye, and his Taraba State counterpart, Jolly Nyame, alongside 157 others convicted for various offences.
The two men were investigated, prosecuted, and convicted for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion respectively from their state treasuries while they were in office between 1999 and 2007. The situation generated criticisms.
But in a statement by presidential media aide, Garba Shehu, the Presidency said Buhari was guided by the Constitution and his action was based on a recommendation by the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM).
Shehu cited Section 175 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999(as amended).
He noted that President exercised his constitutional powers “to 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; to grant respite, either for an indefinite or a specified period of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; substitute a less severe form of punishment imposed on that person for such an offence or remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on the person for such an offence or of penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the state on account of such an offence”.
The Federal Government constituted the PACPM on August 28th, 2018 with the mandate of assisting the President in the discharge of his constitutional responsibility of granting pardon/clemency to convicts or ex-convicts in deserving cases.
The Committee filed its first report in March 2020 and reconvened on Thursday, 28 September 2021 to attend to the myriad of pending applications for presidential pardon and clemency from Nigerians across the country.
These accrued cases followed the established process of applying for pardon or clemency first to the Correctional Service (formerly Nigerian Prison Service), which must certify claims made, be they of life-threatening ill-health, (as in the cases of Governors Dariye, Nyame; John Joshua Uloh, Engr Umar Bamalli, Sa’adu Ayinla Alanamu, Charles Ihenatu, Akinwumi Ajayi and tens of others making the approved list of 159; or such cases arising from remorse and good conduct or plainly on the basis of compassion among other stated criteria.
The PACPM members, under the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, followed up the recommendations with a visit to selected Correctional Centers in several states of the Federation to “critically appraise and identify potential cases of convicts and ex-convicts before recommending them for presidential pardon/clemency and reduced sentences.”
In this round of the exercise, 412 inmates were interviewed and 162 were recommended to the Council of State by the President in the exercise of his powers, pursuant to Section 175 (2) which requires that he should carry out this function after being “advised by the Council.”
Clearly, the presentation to the Council of States meeting last week, attended by former Presidents, a former Chief Justice and 36 States and the FCT along the lines of its statutory membership was a culmination of a rigorous process, regulated and guided by the law which was not, in any way designed to achieve a political purpose.
While it is natural that the cases of the ex-governors-two among many- would excite political analysts, coming at a time when elections are in the air, the President would at the same time have come across as insensitive and cruel to most people were he to have ignored very compelling cases recommended for pardon made to him because someone is a former Governor. Even Governors have the right to be treated fairly under the law.
President Buhari assures the nation that nothing done here was intended to achieve a political end or send a revisionist message on the relentless war against corruption which he has ably and evidently led by personal examples.