President Muhammudu Buhari shocked Nigerians to the spine on Thursday, 14th April, when the Council of State granted state pardon for two former governors who were convicted for corrupt practices while in Office. Rev. Jolly Nyame, who was the governor of Taraba state and his counterpart from Plateau state, Joshua Dariye, were both pardoned by the council of state chaired by President Buhari.
Rev. Nyame, after leaving office in 2007 was slammed with a forty-one count charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for fraud to the tune of N1.6 billion. The former governor admitted to misappropriating N180 million out of N250 million meant for stationaries in Taraba state and offered to return the fund.
He was convicted in 2018 by a Federal High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was also charged to refund the monies he diverted. Nyame’s conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal. In 2020, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgement of the trial court but set aside the fines imposed on him on the grounds that they were outrageous.
For the former governor of Plateau state, Joshua Dariye, the EFCC had a 23 counts charge of money laundering that involved alleged diversion of about N1.126 billion of his state ecological fund. He was convicted by the Federal High Court of the FCT in 2018 and was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment on charges of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of funds. His appeal up to the apex court was unsuccessful but he was able to get a reduced jail term of two years.
It is incomprehensible how a government that rode to power with a stern stance on corruption would pardon public officers who were convicted even up to the apex court. We hold that the so called anti-corruption campaign of the Buhari-led administration is a joke and the state pardon granted to the two former governors are slap to the face of Nigerians who are at the receiving end of the corrupt practices the likes of the two former governors perpetrate.
Is it not obvious that Buhari-led administration has folded his hands and allowed corruption to deal heavy blow on his administration? Recent reports by anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International and the US State Department lend weight to most Nigerians’ perception about this administration’s stance on fighting corruption. According to Transparency International, the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Nigeria in 154 out of 180 countries placing Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa.
While the pardon granted to the likes of Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju and all the junior officers jailed for the failed Gideon Orkar coup of 1990 may be justifiable, the explanation by the Presidency to justify the Nyame and Dariye’s pardon holds no water.
According to the Presidency, the pardon was granted based on the note presented to the Council of State on the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM). For the two convicted former governors, the state pardon was granted on the basis of old age and ill-health. A statement signed by a media aide to the President, Garba Shehu said, “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.
“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.”
We hold that it would however be an uphill task for the president and his team to convince Nigerians that the state pardon granted to the convicted governors was done based truly on the reasons mentioned and not based on underlining motives. Whatever the case may be, we are disappointed that the president would grant the state pardon to such persons when there are many innocent Nigerians languishing in correctional centres across the country with no justifiable reasons to be there.
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