From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
In the midst of rising criticism, a civil society organisation, Equity And Justice in Politics And Governance Movement (EJPGM) has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for granting state pardons to 159 Nigerians, including two former state governors.
The National Council of State granted state pardons to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba States, respectively, who are serving prison terms for corruption.
The governors were among 159 prisoners pardoned by the Council at a meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday.
Among the beneficiaries are a former military general and minister under the Sani Abacha regime, Tajudeen Olanrewaju, an army lieutenant colonel, Akiyode, who was an aide of former deputy to General Abacha, Oladipo Diya; and all the junior officers jailed over the 1990 abortive Gideon Orkar coup.
According to a presidency source, the two former governors were, Rev Jolly Nyame of Taraba state his Plateau State counterpart, Joshua Dariye were pardoned on health and age grounds.
Mr Nyame, 66, governor of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007, was serving a 12-year jail term at the Kuje prison for misappropriation of funds while he was in office. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in February 2020.
Mr Dariye, 64, who governed Plateau between 1999 and 2007, was jailed for stealing N2 billion of public funds during his time as Plateau State governor from 1999 and 2007.
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However, the decision did not go down well with some Nigerians who condemned the president for including the two former state governors.
But the group, in a statement commended President Muhammadu Buhari, for the gesture.
The Executive Secretary of the group, Ogbeh Tobias, said before the state pardon was granted to 159 persons, about 10,000 inmates have also benefitted from the decongestion of Correctional Centres embarked upon by the Federal Government since 2017.
He said this is not the first time state pardon will be granted to inmates serving various jail terms and surely won’t be the last.
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‘So, the point must be made here that there is nothing strange in the action of the Federal Government to grant state pardon to these 159 persons after thorough deliberation by the council of state,’ Tobias said.
‘The above goes to show that the government has been championing the decongestion of correctional centres through pardon and payment of fines of some inmates.
‘Over 10,000 inmates were freed under this scheme.
‘In its almost seven years in power, this is the first time the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will be granting state pardons to anybody including the political class and this was done after they have served considerably long time of their jail term.
‘Also, this is the first time the deployment of section 175 (1) of the constitution that requires the advice of the council of state is being used by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari even when over 10,000 have benefited from such compassion over compassionate interventions in response to public outcry for Decongestion of our correctional centres’ formation which was at a point adjudged to have over 70% awaiting trials inmates.
‘Those granted state pardons were named, shamed, convicted and jailed. The corruptly acquired property was confiscated and returned to the treasury, having spent considerable time in jail and shown remorse, it is not out of place if they are pardoned.
‘In case those condemning the state pardon by President Buhari have forgotten, the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr Goodluck Jonathan also granted state pardon, so, why should there be controversy over this one.’
He said accusing fingers should not be pointed at the Federal Government as aiding and abetting corruption with state pardon to those Nigerians.
‘Accusing fingers should not be pointed at the government as aiding and abetting corruption because Nigerians have been clamouring for the decongestion of correctional centres across the country.
‘Apart from decongestion of correctional centres, interventions such as NPower, Facilities to support Small and Medium enterprises in the country, COVID-19 palliative, post COVID-19 loan facility and many others have been done by the government and are all targeted at the masses.
‘Every good move by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari will always be condemned by detractors because they have never and will never see anything good in the government, even, when a majority of Nigerians applauded the move,’ Tobias said.