For the third day running, outrage and anger have continued to hallmark public reaction to the state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and six others, by the Council of State, which sat last Tuesday. Although a few persons have defended the exercise, many others expressed umbrage at the act.
TI Urges Jonathan to Rescind Decision
Reacting to the pardon for the former governor, Transparency International (TI), a global anti-corruption organisation, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to rescind the pardon for Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted for money laundering.
"This decision undermines anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria and encourages impunity. If the government is serious about uprooting public corruption, sanctions against those who betray the public trust should be strengthened, not relaxed," TI Vice-Chairman, Akere Muna, said.
With the presidential pardon, Alamieyeseigha will now be able to stand for public office again.
NLC: Pardon Unacceptable
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Thursday rejected the pardon for Alamieyeseigha and a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Alhaji Shettima Bulama.
The congress said it was not in the national interest for those who committed economic crimes of such magnitude to be granted state pardon.
NLC in a statement by its President, Abdulwaheed Omar, wondered what message the Council of State is sending to Nigerians "if at the height of unprecedented corruption in the country those who have been prosecuted and jailed for stealing public funds are granted state pardon."
The congress, which maintained that the crimes committed are too weighty for state pardon, advised the president to engage in wider and qualitative consultation before taking such a weighty decision in the future.
"The congress finds it incongruous the state pardon granted to the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Mr Bulama while like other citizens, they may be entitled to state pardon, congress believes that the crimes committed are too weighty for state pardon.
"State pardon is recognised across the world not for its own sake but for its potential and capacity for redressing judicial guilt, rewarding penitence, or for initiating reconciliation, and in some instances, for ensuring restoration, but never losing sight of national interest.
"Congress believes that decisions as weighty as state pardon should be well thought-out, transparent and devoid of any ulterior motive and accordingly, call for a reversal of the decision," the NLC said.
Falana: Council of State Lacks Power to Grant Pardon
A Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), has faulted the power of the Council to grant pardon to Alamieyeseigha and others.
He said the council had overreached itself by approving the pardon.
"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 illegal and unconstitutional," he said in a statement.
Falana said his submission was anchored on Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution.
Falana noted that "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.
"In the same vein, Alhaji Shettima Mohammed Bulama, the former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, was jailed by the Federal High Court. He was not as lucky as his colleague in the defunct Oceanic Bank Plc who was ordered by the trial court to spend her six-month prison term in a highbrow hospital on Victoria Island in Lagos after forfeiting assets worth N191 billion," he added.
Civil Society Groups Fault Decision
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the aegis of Zero Corruption Coalition, have described as embarrassing, the decision to grant state pardon to Alamieyeseigha and six others.
The coalition explained that although the constitution confers on the president the power to exercise prerogative of mercy as provided for in Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution, by doing so in favour of those who were jailed for corruption has done harm to the anti-graft war.
It added that by the decision, the government has lost its alleged claims of zero tolerance for corruption.
Convener of the coalition and Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwwal Musa, stated that the state pardon for Alamieyeseigha is particularly an embarrassment to Nigerians and a source of discouragement to the efforts of various anti-corruption agencies in the country.
Alamieyeseigha Deserves the Pardon, Says Uranta
The Executive Secretary of the National Summit Group (NSG), Tony Uranta, has said Alamieyeseigha earned the state pardon because of his role in ensuring peace and progress in the Niger Delta region.
In an interview with Channels Television yesterday, Uranta argued that the pardon was appropriate and in tandem with what happened in the United States during the tenure of President Bill Clinton who granted state pardon to his brother who was involved in drug trafficking.
Uranta also cited the positive role the former governor played in the amnesty programme to buttress his claim that he had worked for the pardon.
Jubilation in Bayelsa
But in Bayelsa State, the mood was ecstatic as people poured into the streets of Yenagoa, the state capital, to celebrate the pardon granted the state's first civilian governor.
Most people THISDAY spoke to in Yenagoa said that Alams, as he is fondly called in Bayelsa State, deserved the pardon.
The immediate past Commissioner for Information, Chief Nathan Egba, said the pardon was well deserved.
Special Adviser to Governor Seriake Dickson on Political Matters, Chief Fred Agbedi, also said that the pardon was timely.
But a former Secretary of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) in the state, Morris Alagoa, described the pardon for the former governor as a setback to the fight against corruption in the country.
Egba said: "I expect that Nigerians should by now learn not to rush to judgment each time there is a presidential decision that appears controversial."
Agbedi described the pardon as a welcome development, saying: "We appreciate it because it will enable him to bounce back. He has contributed immensely to state and national development."