The Federal Government yesterday received more knocks for the pardons granted to former governors of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye and Taraba State, Jolly Nyame, convicted for corruption.
Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike and a frontline Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Mike Ozekhome, flayed the gesture, describing it as an act capable of ridiculing the country in the international community.
It was learnt that Dariye shed tears of joy on learning about his pardon. Officials of the Kuje facility who broke the news of their pardon to them also noticed that they were suddenly thrown in high spirits, as if the doors of the facilities would be opened just immediately.
However, our correspondent learnt that the duo are still awaiting their release from the Kuje facility located at the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, as at the time of filing this report.
Officials of the facility who confided in our Correspondent said Governor Dariye on being told of the pardon was surprised and speechless for some moments, only for tears of joy to roll down his cheeks immediately. “He embraced some of us in excitement and expressed appreciation to the Council of State, and President Muhammadu Buhari,” one of the officers said.
Wike, a leading Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential aspirant said the pardon was a demonstration that the corruption fight of the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government was shrouded in despicable politics that had ridiculed Nigeria in the international community.
The governor spoke when he visited Niger State as part of his ongoing consultations with delegates of the PDP ahead of the party’s presidential primaries.
Ozekhome in a statement on Saturday, argued that both the President and the Council of State goofed and abused their undoubted constitutional powers and privileges in granting pardon to Nyame and Dariye in view of their conduct.
He wondered if Buhari possesses the legal capacity to grant pardon to people prosecuted under state laws.
Wike said it was difficult to explain the rationale of the APC led Federal Government in handpicking supposed corrupt persons, make them go through court processes up to Supreme Court and then turn around to release them in the guise of a pardon.
Wike in a statement signed by his Special Assistant, Media, recalled that President Buhari promised to fight corruption forthrightly.
He, however, said Buhari’s pattern was tilted against persons opposed to his policies and programmes.
He said: “To tell you the truth, this APC government has deceived us a lot. This is a government that said they’re fighting corruption. They handpick people and jail them after they have gone through all court processes up to the Supreme Court.
“Then they turned around to release from prison those people that they said are corrupt. What country and what a government?
“Doing it for political reasons because the elections are coming and they want (Joshua) Dariye to help their party in Plateau State. They want (Jolly) Nyame to help them in Taraba State. Why don’t they give pardon to James Ibori for example.
“Look at how they have made the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to prosecute and spend so much money. Then at the end of the day you played politics with it. How will the international community look at us? It’s so shameful.”
Wike told the delegates that he was resolved to end the era of lies by the APC to Nigerians, saying it was the reason he was vying for the ticket of the PDP.
He promised to tackle the festering insecurity in parts of the country to allow farmers return to their farms and grow the economy.
His words: “The day you give me the ticket is the day we will start to form the government, because by giving me the ticket, I know I’ve won the election already.
“It is only when you’ve given me the ticket that I’ll make sure that I present, put together the best of professionals that will help me to run the affairs of this country.
“Leadership is the ability to organise and galvanise experts to do the work under adequate supervision and coordination.”
For Ozekhome, Buhari’s action was not only a negation of his administration’s anti-corruption stand, but a confirmation of the argument that the president was not committed to the fight against corruption.
He distinguished the pardon granted to the late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha from the current case of Nyame and Dariye.
He said: “There is the more worrisome legal conundrum in the entire presidential pardon as it pertains to the two governors.
“This is whether the president could have legally granted pardon to former governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba states respectively, having regards to the fact that both men were convicted for offences allegedly committed between November 2000 and May 2007.
“The offences under which they were tried and convicted fall under state laws which took place after the promulgation of the1999 Constitution during which time they were governors.
“Specifically, they were tried and convicted under sections 115,119 and 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, LFN, 1990, obviously an existing State law within the meaning, import and true purport of sections 315(1)(b) and 318 of the 1999 Constitution.
“This Act which became effective as a state law is applicable to the FCT and the northern states. This Penal Code Act ,not being a federal legislation of the NASS, became an existing state law deemed duly enacted by the 19 Northern States by virtue of section 315(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution.
“It becomes clear therefore that only the governors of Plateau and Taraba States could have legally and rightly granted pardon to Dariye and Nyame,invoking section 212 of the Constitution; and not Mr President under section 175 of the Constitution.”
On the negative implication of granting pardon to Nyame and Dariye, Ozekhome said: “The purpose of criminal prosecution is to secure justice, not only for the accused, but also for the victims of crimes and the state; and to some extent get reparation and restitution for the victims, while deterring others from going the same route.
“Where lies the justice for the impoverished people of Plateau and Taraba states who will now watch their tormentors stroll out with red carpet treatment?
“The government budgets huge sums of money for the prosecution of such accused persons from the tax players’ sweat; and if after the rigorous period of trial and subsequent conviction, the guilty are simply let off the hook in such a brazen manner, the little remaining lean hope the citizens have in the system is further diminished.
“I dare say that in these two instances, both the President and the Council of State goofed and abused their undoubted constitutional powers and privileges.
“A constitutional issue as volatile as this could have been better managed if the minders of the president had told him the embarrassment this could cause the government in the estimation of the comity of nations. And it is doing just that.
“This brazen abuse of power will definitely ricochet and erode the confidence of our international partners in the fight against corruption.
“It will also dampen the morale of the agencies fighting corruption, such as EFCC, the Nigeria Police Force, and the ICPC, amongst others.
“This singular ill-advised act of abuse of power will also definitely embolden political thieves and unrepentant pilferers of our national commonwealth.
“It shows that once you are a friend of the President or a member of his political party, or his acolyte and supporter, you can get away with any crime. In other words, in Nigeria, corruption surely pays!
“With this action, the fight against corruption appears forlorn and a mirage. What is the essence of spending scarce resources in the name of fighting corruption if at the end of the day the convicts will be pardoned and stroll into their palatial homes in splendour in this ugly manner?
Ex-governors still in custody Public Relations Officer of the FCT Command of the Nigerian Correctional Service (NCoS), Humphrey Chukwuendo says that the ex-governors Dariye and Nyame are still in their custody.
He said: “As of today we are yet to get letters to release them. It’s the Federal Government that will bring the letters. And once we receive the letters, they will be set free. The holidays may not affect their release because it is from the Federal Government.
“But supposing we are expecting the letters from the courts, then we can say it will be after the holidays. As we are talking now, if they bring the letter, we will release them.
“I don’t know where exactly the letters will come, maybe from the Attorney General of the Federation or the Presidency.
“It is possible the letter will go through the Controller-General, then, come down to the FCT Command. We will immediately do the needful. But as we speak, ex-governors Dariye and Nyame are still in our custody.”