A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, yesterday asked the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to free all prisoners who have been jailed for stealing and related offences.
The request followed the state pardon granted by the Council of States on Thursday to former Governor of Taraba State, Rev Jollly Nyame, who was jailed for corruption after the expiration of his tenure as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.
Falana stated this as the guest lecturer at an event organised to celebrate one year remembrance of the late Yinka Odumakin and launching of Yinka Odumakin Foundation, held at Sheraton Lagos Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos State.
He said: “They are pardoning themselves right 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 thieves and other criminals in our prisons should be released.
“Under section 17 of their constitution, it says there shall be equal right for all citizens and section 42 says there shall be no discrimination on the basis of class, gender, whatever. So you cannot take out two people and leave the rest there.
“In particular, the Government has been prohibited from conferring advantages on any group of citizens to the exclusion of others in the same category.
“If the government doesn’t release others, I am going to suggest to lawyers whose clients are likely to be left in prison to go to court and challenge the discriminatory treatment meted out to them, as what is good for the goose is good for the gander
“If you want to pardon your friends, you must also extend the presidential pardon to all thieves, because if the big thieves are being asked to walk away, we must also extend it to others including the petty thieves jailed for stealing spaghetti and noodles to feed themselves.”
Falana insisted that it is stated in section 17 of the 1999 constitution that citizens are entitled to equal rights and opportunities “and so the state pardon have to be extended to all prisoners who are serving terms for stealing.”
Speaking about restructuring of the country, Falana said that the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should be referred to as Decree 24 of 1999 as it was not duly signed.
He added: “The Constitution should be seen as a decree which is fraudulent, adding that it is a legal document and not a legitimate document.
“What the National Assembly has continued to do is to amend the illegality.
“The so called 1999 constitution is really Decree 24 of 1999. When you see the so called constitution, you will not see the signature of the man who signed the law. That is the fraud.
“When you see a law, the name of the person who signed it will be set out with the date.
“Decree 24 of 1999 was promulgated by General Abdulsalam Abubakar on the 5th of May 1999, but today you will not see his name on it and the date that he appended his signature to the document. It is a fraudulent document in every material particular.
“The decree was imposed on us by the last set of military dictators in Nigeria headed by Gen. Abubakar, and because that document is okay for members of the ruling class, regardless of their political parties, ethnic, regional or religious inclination, they are all comfortable with the document. So they can’t do anything about it including all those we are campaigning today to be President.
“They want to retain the status quo and perhaps adjust it here and there; that is the only thing they are saying. So those who are contesting particularly on the platform of the ruling party are saying we are going to continue the programme of the Buhari administration that has put our country in a serious crisis.”
Falana lamented that Nigeria has become a huge joke in the committee of nations, and so for any set of people to say they want to package this rickety vehicle and begin to panel beat it, it is not going to move.
“When they are talking of continuity, it can only be continuity of disaster, continuity of injustice, continuity of insecurity and continuity of corruption.
“If we are still changing decrees to Act, the National Assembly members have not shown any readiness to review the constitution with a view to restoring the federal status of the country.”
He urged state governments to set up panels of lawyers to challenge the Federal Government over issues that affect the effective running of their affairs which the Federal Government had taken over.
Falana said that the greatest tribute that can be paid to Yinka Odumakin is to keep up the battle for horizontal and vertical restructuring so that the powers devolved from the centre will be democratised and exercised by the masses of our people.
Yinka Odumakin was a Nigerian human rights activist and politician. Until his death in April 2021, he was the national publicity secretary of Afenifere, a Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group.
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