Corruption and Underdevelopment

Stakeholders tackle Buhari over state pardon for ex-govs, others

  • Say it’s arbitrary, undermines judicial independence
  • Shows prison’s for poor Nigerians, anti-graft war finished

By Paul Michael, Abuja

Critical stakeholders have berated the corruption war of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, following the state pardon granted to former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye and his Taraba counterpart, Jolly Nyame.

They said Buhari is merely wasting national treasury in the name of fighting corruption, stressing that it is finished for the anti-graft war.

They contended that the state pardon extended to the former governors among other prominent Nigerians has shown that the Nigerian prison is only meant for the poor.

Speaking on the pardon, the prosecution counsel of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), said the Buhari anti-corruption has been made a joke.

He stated he was disappointed in the decision of the government which amounted to setting a wrong precedence for the younger generation.

Jacobs said the message being conveyed was that prison was only for the poor, noting that the pardon meant that both Dariye and Nyame could later run for elective offices.

He said, “This pardon means that they can hold offices and run for elections. It has turned the anti-corruption war into a joke. It is a setback against the fight against corruption. They are setting a bad example for the younger generation. This case went from the High Court to the Supreme Court and now the convicts are being pardoned.

“It will demoralise the judges, the investigators and the prosecutors. It sends a bad message to the youth and Nigerians as a whole.”

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Meanwhile, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has described the state pardon as arbitrary, saying it undermines the independence of the judicial arm of government.

The group in a letter signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called on the president to urgently withheld the pardon and allow the supposed beneficiaries to complete their jail terms.

“The pardon power ought to be exercised in a manner that is consistent with the 1999 Constitution (as amended), particularly the provisions on oath of office by public officers, and Section 15 (5), which requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.

“Indeed, the presidential pardon power must be exercised in good faith, and in line with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution on fundamental rights.

“The pardon constitutes an interference in the exercise of judicial power because the exercise appears to be arbitrary and undermines the authority and independence of the judiciary and access to justice for victims of corruption,” the letter reads in part.

On his part, Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, said he was at a loss for words following the carelessness of the Buhari administration in granting pardon to convicted criminals, who are serving their jail terms for corrupt practices and abuse of public trust.

In a disappointing manner, Prof Soyinka said, “All I can say is that it is finished. It is finish.”

This is coming even as renowned Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) stated that the war against corruption had officially come to an end and jokingly asked the Federal Government to release all guilty persons from prisons.

He said it is quite sad that a man who said one of his major cardinal focus is the fight against corruption would turn his back and grant pardon to convicted corrupt politicians and public officers for stealing billings from the Nigerian people.

Falana said, “They are pardoning themselves now. The same man, who said he came to fight corruption, has been granting pardon to people who were convicted for stealing billions of naira.

“My reaction is that all criminals and petty thieves should be released since Section 17 of the Constitution says there shall be equal right for all citizens and Section 42 says there shall be no discrimination on the basis of class, gender or whatever.”

While speaking earlier on Friday at the first memorial lecture and book presentation in honour of the late activist, Mr Yinka Odumakin, at Lagos, Falana said, “The rulers are interested in continuity – continuity of injustice and corruption. A Nigerian was jailed for stealing noodles in Abuja, he was not granted state pardon. If you want to pardon your friends, you must extend that pardon to other people in the spirit of equity and fairness.”

Also a Pro-transparency group, Transparency International (TI), which has consistently ranked Nigeria low despite the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration, said it had become obvious that the President’s anti-graft war was a scam.

Auwal Rafsanjani, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, which is Nigeria’s chapter of the TI, said the Buhari has lost the moral right to continue the anti-corruption war. Adding that it was obvious that the pardon of the two ex-governors was connected to the 2023 elections.

“The Buhari government has shown that the fight against corruption is simply deceptive, a mere show, a means to settle political scores and pardon those in its camp. It has rubbished the work of the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.

“You need to know how much was spent on the trial of these gentlemen. Why did the government waste taxpayers’ money if they knew this was what they wanted to do?

“We are not surprised that as 2023 is coming, these two ex-governors, who are popular in their states, are being pardoned so that the ruling party can use them to win elections in their states.

“There are thousands of Nigerians languishing in various correctional centres. Why are they not being forgiven? Why is it that people who looted and impoverished the people are being pardoned?”

Meanwhile, sources within EFCC, some of whom were involved in the handling of the two cases, said that huge sums of money were expended on investigation and prosecution of the cases between 2007 and 2018.

Dariye’s case in particular was said to have cost a lot more as it emanated from London and the star witness, Peter Clark, who was a policeman, had to be flown from the United Kingdom on several occasions and lodged in hotels while the case dragged on.

One of the sources said, “The pardon for Dariye is demoralising. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) was the one who handled the case. He has an internal arrangement with the EFCC so his fee is not that much. However, the bulk of the money was spent on investigation. The case started from London. We had to fly there and lodge in hotels.

“Also, Peter Clark, a UK officer, was the star witness. He was the one who first arrested Dariye in 2004. We had to fly him here on several occasions to testify in Nigeria. Sometimes, when he arrived in Nigeria, the case would be adjourned for one flimsy reason or the other and he would have to travel back and then return to Nigeria.

“Clark was the one who revealed how Dariye bought a pen for £7,000 and was found with over £40,000, while his aide had about £50,000 on her. We spent hundreds of millions on this case. Kwarbai was attacked. The scar is still on his head. How will the UK take us seriously?”

The National Council of State had on Thursday 14th April endorsed the pardon of Dariye, Nyame and 157 other convicts following the recommendation of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy.

The 12-member committee, inaugurated by President Buhari in 2018 is headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami.

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