Port Harcourt/Abuja/Warri — A coalition of civil society organisations thursday rose from a meeting on the general situation in the country with a call that former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, should be extradited to the United Kingdom to face trial for money laundering offences.
While the coalition expressed misgiving over the pardon, former militants in the Niger Delta said President Goodluck Jonathan's decision to grant pardon to Alamieyeseigha and others was in the interest of the nation and indeed one of the best decisions taken by the president.
Also, National Coordinator, Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence (FJHD), Mr. Oghenejabor Ikimi, also called on the Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to the President, Dr. Doyin Okupe, should tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians for his "provocative statements" concerning the pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and others.
A group, The Say No Campaign said it was imperative for the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) should produce copies of the minute of the National Council of State meeting in order for Nigerians to ascertain the true picture of what transpired.
Speaking under the aegis of Situation Room, the coalition called on the federal government to hasten Alamieyeseigha's extradition to the UK for trial.
The coalition noted that the charges he faced in London were different from the offences for which he was convicted and granted pardon by President Jonathan.
They claimed that although the president had the powers to grant pardon, the circumstances under which he pardoned Alamieyeseigha threatened the presidential reformation agenda.
"The Situation Room notes that Alamieyeseigha, in addition to being convicted in Nigeria, also has an international warrant of arrest issued by the UK authorities around the world for his arrest and extradition to face trial for charges that are still pending in the UK. In other words, Alamieyeseigha is an international fugitive from justice," the coalition argued.
The Chief Executive of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, who read the demands of the organisations, said: "The pardon is a major contradiction. It clearly contradicts this administration's commitment to fight corruption in public office. It sends wrong signal that this government condones corruption."
Nwankwo said: "Nigerians generally are angry. Responses from governmental quarters show that the government does not give a damn. But Nigerians are angry, and therefore the government should surrender. Jonathan should show more competence to govern by providing security for lives and properties."
On their part, the ex-militants, under the umbrella of Leadership Forum for Peace Building, said with the pardon, Alamieyeseigha, whom they added had suffered enough for his offences, would contribute much more to the development of the country.
National President of the Forum, Mr. Reuben Wilson, said in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, after a meeting of leaders of former militant camps in the Niger Delta, that the decision would not have come at a better time than now, "when Nigeria needs to consolidate on the gains of the after-effect of the amnesty programme those of us who were in the creeks and fighting for the development of our communities."
Wilson said rather than crucify Jonathan over the decision; the president should be praised for his foresight, as what he has done is in the best interest of the country.
However, Ikimi, who spoke in a statement in Warri, described as "more annoying" Okupe's spirited defence of the presidential pardon for the former governor convicted on corruption charges.
He urged all well-meaning Nigerians to be united in condemnation of the pardon.
"I am indeed terrified at the recent presidential pardon granted Mr. DSP Alamieyeseigha, the erstwhile governor of Bayelsa State and the first civilian governor under the present political dispensation to be tried and convicted of money laundering and other related offences and I describe the above shameful act of both the council of state and the federal government as criminal, nonsensical and a tacit approval of official corruption in the polity," Ikimi said.
The legal practitioner, who also described that while "the shameful act of both the Council of State and the federal government as criminal, nonsensical and a tacit approval of official corruption in the polity", wondered why Okupe would be so indifferent to the feelings of majority of citizens in this country.
He argued that the presidential pardon remained an indefensible error by Mr. President, who once served as deputy to Alamieyeseigha, by paving the way for his legal eligibility to vie for elective position in Nigeria; and, called for the "reversal of the said decision without further delay in the interest of good governance."
According to him, the state pardon should be promptly withdrawn in light of the apparent weakness of current leadership in Nigeria, heightened national insecurity and general socio-economic malaise vis-à-vis general humiliation of the country in the international community.
He said no civilised society would condone the callous manner Okupe and others in the chorus camp of Mr. President were trying to justify the reprieve granted Alamieyeseigha on grounds that the former Bayelsa governor had shown enough remorse for his misdemeanour.
He said Nigerians did not pick holes with the state pardon extended to late Major-Gen Shehu Musa Yar'Adua and Lt-Gen Oladipo Diya, simply because the people were conscious of the fact that the men were convicted over phantom plan to overthrow the military junta of the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
"Nigerians know that the case of Alamieyeseigha could not be morally and legally considered on the same pedestal with those who were accused of attempting to subvert a dictatorship that was foisted on the country through undemocratic means," he noted.
Nwagwu in a statement stated that the request for the minute of the meeting was based on the provisions of Sections 1(1), 1(2) and 3 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 2011, should enable Nigerians know how, "this ridiculous decision was reached, especially against the backdrop of denials by some members of the National Council of State that the pardons were not discussed."
Nwagu stated: "We are hoping that the SGF will expeditiously attend to this request in the interest of rule of law and transparency. We also wish to reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of this pardon as expressed by the civil society groups working on anti corruption press statement of March 14, 2013."
Meanwhile, the ex-militants have condemned the multiple bomb blasts in Kano, by the Boko Haram, urging the terrorists to retrace their steps.
Wilson said: "What they have continued doing is not good at all. We discussed the frequent attacks during our meeting and came to the painful conclusion that their main motive is to see how they can distract the president. We like to inform them that they are making a serious mistake."