Dr Reuben Abati has explained that the previous ‘pardon’ granted to some former military officers alongside the convicted former governor of Bayela state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, were not pardon but clemency.
The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President made this known on Channels TV weekend breakfast show, Sunrise where he explained that the military officers were granted ‘clemency’ and not Pardon.
According to him, the Generals were previously granted ‘clemency’ and not pardon which did not return their full corporal rights thereby they cannot use their military titles but with the new pardon, they have being further forgiven and the pardon has cancelled their corporal rights which were not returned.
Among those pardoned by the President earlier in the week are late General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, and three former Army officers accused of coup plotting: Oladipo Diya, a former Chief of General Staff, Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa and Major Fadipe.
It has been reported that all the military officers had been pardoned by the Abdulsalam Abubakar administration.
Granting pardon to the former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is an indication that President Goodluck Jonathan is not serious about the fight against corruption. This condemnation is coming from some lawyers, politicians and activists.
The former Kaduna state governor, Balarabe Musa believes the pardon has shown that President Jonathan has abandoned the fight against corruption.
“What is the justification for the pardon? Are they too old to stay in the prison where they belong? This is unfortunate particularly at this period when the government is talking about the fight against corruption,” he said.
“This simply means that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has abandoned his anti-corruption crusade. It has a political manoeuvring.”
President of the Civil Rights Congress, Shehu Sani, said he was in support of the pardon for Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and the others but that it appeared they were on the list as a smokescreen to re-launch Mr Alamieyeseigha into politics.
“I’m in support of pardon for Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Oladipo Diya and co but I know they were simply used as a smokescreen. They were given pardon in order to give credibility to the pardon but the exercise was done because of Alamieyeseigha,” he said.
Lawyer Festus Keyamo, in a statement on Tuesday night, said the pardon for Mr Alamieyeseigha “typifies the height of insensitivity of this government to the feelings of Nigerians about the war against corruption.”
He added: “This pardon by the President 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 per excellence.”
Another lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, said if the pardon is truly granted, it “will signal the end of the existing phony war against corruption.”
Former president of the Nigerian Bar Association Rotimi Akeredolu said the pardon does not rule out the fact that Alamieyeseigha has committed a crime which would still hold against him.
But lawyer Mike Ozekhome said the pardon “cleansed” the ex-convict of any “sin.”
He said, “The stigma of being an ex-convict has just been totally washed away and such a person can contest elections. He is taken in the eye of the law that he has never committed any offence.
“Anyone who will blame President Jonathan for giving Presidential pardon to his former boss, who brought him out of the classroom, such will be living in a dream world of unreality. It is only natural that the President will want to pardon his former boss who has always been there for him.”
In its reaction, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Tuesday night said the presidential pardon for Mr Alamieyeseigha was “laughable and tribalistic.”
The CPC spokesman, Rotimi Fashakin said the decision was akin to granting posthumous pardon to the likes of notorious armed robber Lawrence Anini.
“There is a better way to show solidarity with one’s boss than this utterly reprehensible action…. This is another proof that the Jonathan regime is not averse to corruption,” Fashakin said.
Secretary General of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), Willy Ezugwu, said, “This is saddening…. This has also confirmed that the president is hobnobbing with corruption and that Nigerians should not put their hope on him to move the nation forward.”