Presidential pardon granted Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State and four others sparks off controversy
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Mar. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
MIXED reactions have continued to trail the presidential pardon granted to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, former governor of Bayelsa State, along with four others on March 12, by the National Council of State, headed by President Goodluck Jonathan. Some political analysts and sources within the presidency believed that the president was using the pardon of Alamieyeseigha as his game plan to win the support of the ex-militants in the Niger Delta ahead of 2015.
Investigations by Realnews revealed that the president wants to use Alamieyeseigha to broker peace with the ex-militants who are criticising his failure to address the problems in the Niger Delta. It was also learnt that Jonathan believes that any restiveness in Niger Delta could deny him of the home support ahead of the 2015 presidential poll. The president is equally aware of Alamieyeseigha’s desire to return to the political arena with a senatorial ambition in 2015.
Doyin Okupe, senior special assistant to the president on public affairs said the pardon a collective decision taken by the Council of State and not just the president alone. “The state pardon given by the federal government to some Nigerians who had been convicted of various crimes was not a unilateral action of President Goodluck Jonathan but a decision considered and approved by the Council of State which is constitutionally empowered by the 1999 constitution to do so,” he said.
Defending the pardon granted to the former governor, Okupe said that it was not meant for the innocent but for those who must have been found guilty of some offences and had either finished serving their sentences or were in the process of serving those sentences. He said the eight Nigerians who were granted pardon were approved after thorough deliberations by the statesmen and that there were many other names that were not approved by the council.
Okupe also claimed that the pardon given to Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of financial fraud under the Obasanjo administration, was informed by political expediency. He said that the former governor, being a foremost Ijaw leader, has been a stabilising factor in the sustenance of the amnesty programme of the federal government in the Niger Delta. And a major player since his release from prison in ensuring that the blood that runs through the Nigerian economy artery is not cut off.
“People have stated that President Jonathan said publicly that Alamieyeseigha was his political benefactor. This is a display of extreme humility and honesty on the part of Mr President in this day that virtually all political benefactors usually turn into enemy number one. Alamieyeseigha is a foremost leader of the Ijaw nation and his political and stabilising influence in that region have impacted positively on the overall economy of the nation, bringing crude oil exports from the abysmally low level of 70,000 barrels per day, to over 2.4 million barrels per day.”
In spite of the official explanation, prominent Nigerians have condemned the pardon granted to the former governor, saying that the action was capable of killing the fight against corruption in the country. Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, said the pardon granted to Alamieyeseigha was very discouraging in the fight against corruption. “I believe that corruption still remains the biggest problem confronting Nigeria. We should not do anything that will take us back. The action by the government is capable of stopping the entire war against corruption. This government’s action is sending a message that if you are found to be corrupt, ultimately nothing will ever happen to you,” he said.
Festus Keyamo, Lagos-based lawyer, said the pardon given to Alamieyeseigha showed the height of insensitivity of the government to the feelings of Nigerians about the war against corruption. According to Keyamo, the pardon teaches no bitter lesson to thieving and corrupt public officers, but encourages corruption at the highest and the lowest levels of public office and the decision itself is corruption per excellence.
“It is shocking, confusing and disheartening that at a time when the general mood of the country indicates that the war against corruption is insincere, slow and a sham, the president deems it fit to even rubbish the very little work that has been done by the anti-corruption agencies in securing the conviction of these individuals. It is also disturbing that at a time when Nigeria is still ranking very low in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International the president has further damaged the image of the country by this singular act,” he said.
Shehu Sani, president of Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, said though some of the listed names deserved pardon, but extending the gesture to Alamieyeseigha and other public officers who were found to have corruptly enriched themselves while in office was unfortunate. He said the president intentionally added other names to shade his decision to pardon the former governor.
“There is an indication that granting pardon to Yar’Adua, Diya and others is a decoy to pardon Alamieyeseigha and other corrupt persons. There is a clear indication that including Diya and Yar’Adua is to give credibility to the pardon of godfathers and friends of the president. There was no reason why the National Council of State should grant pardon to those who were convicted under the military regime with those who enriched themselves in public office,” he said.
Femi Falana, Lagos-based lawyer, was quoted in the Daily Sun of March 15, as saying that Gen.eral Oladipo Diya, late Major General Abdulkareem Adisa and others implicated in the 1995 coup against the late Sani Abacha were pardoned by General Abdulsalam Abubakar in 1999.
Racting to Falana’s claim, General Diya said he was not aware that Abubakar granted him pardon. He said if such was done in 1999, he ought to have been paid his gratuity and pension. “If it was done in 1999, I have not been paid what I am supposed to be paid: pension, gratuity, among others. So, I only believe that since there was nothing mentioned about it, the gratuity and pension, it has not been done. Unlike this one that has been announced now, I know there will be a letter from the secretary to the government of the federation, formally informing me about this decision and all that go with it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ramat Adisa, the wife of late General Abdulkareem Adisa, has commended President Jonathan, the National Assembly and Nigerians in general for the post- humous state pardon granted to her husband. She said the gesture was a welcome development, adding that the entire family of the late General would remain grateful to Nigerians.
Other people who were pardoned are Shettima Bulama, former managing director of the Bank of the North, late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former chief of staff Supreme Headquarters. Also pardoned was late Major General Abdulkareem Adisa, former minister of works.