THE Presidency has defended the state pardon granted to two former governors who were convicted and jailed for corruption.
The state pardon for Joshua Dariye, a former Plateau State governor, and Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba State, was approved at the Council of State meeting last Thursday.
A total of 159 convicts were pardoned by the Federal Government.
The decision to pardon the former governors who were convicted and jailed for stealing billions from the coffers of their states during their tenure in office has been condemned by many Nigerians.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu defended the controversial pardon in a statement seen by The ICIR on Thursday.
Shehu said the pardon will not derail Buhari’s anti-corruption campaign.
“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,” he said.
He noted that Section 175 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 gave the president 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,” he said.
Shehu explained that the Federal Government constituted the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) on Aug. 28, 2018 with the mandate of assisting the president in the discharge of his constitutional responsibility of granting pardon and clemency to convicts or ex-convicts in deserving cases.
He disclosed that the committee filed its first report in March 2020 and reconvened on September 28, 2021 to attend to the myriad of pending applications for presidential pardon and clemency from Nigerians across the country.
According to him, these accrued cases followed the established process of applying for pardon or clemency first to the Correctional Service.
He said this 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.”
According to him, in the course 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 required that he should carry out this function after being “advised by the Council”.
The presidential aide maintained that the presentation to the Council of State meeting last week, attended by former presidents, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria and the governors 36 states along the lines of its statutory membership was a culmination of a rigorous process.
He said the exercise was also 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,” the statement added.