Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a civil rights advocacy group, has described as unnecessary and politically motivated the ill-advised and hasty decision by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led National Council of State to grant pardon to two former governors jailed for corrupt practices.
Senator Joshua Dariye former governor of Plateau State and Mr. Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, convicted for corruption, were pardoned on health and age grounds when they still have several years to complete their jail terms.
Executive Director of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko wondered how the President reached a consideration that at their relatively young ages, they were too old to be in prison confinement whereas there are thousands of awaiting trial inmates and convicted prisoners who were above 80 in Nigerian prisons whose offences are as simple as theft of chickens from their neighbours.
HURIWA said this discrimination on the basis of political connection will adversely harm the rule of law.
The Rights group recalled that the two former governors were among 159 prisoners pardoned by the Council at a meeting presided over by President 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. The Rights group applauded the release of the military officers most of whom were roped into phantom charges of coup plot by the then maximum dictator General Sani Abacha.
HURIWA recalled that Mr. Nyame, who is 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.
Dariye, who later got elected as Senator, who is 64, who governed Plateau between 1999 and 2007, was jailed for stealing N2 billion of public funds during his time as Plateau State governor between 1999 and 2007. The former governor, elected as senator representing Plateau Central in the Senate in 2015, was sentenced in June 2018 but still completed his tenure from jail in June 2019.
HURIWA however condemned the early release of the duo particularly on the ground of seeking to use their political popularity in their minority northern Christian states of Plateau and Taraba to canvass electoral advantage for the All Progressives Congress in whose administration since 2015 that the only high profile politicians jailed for corruption are the two Christian Northerners.
It alleged that whilst the two Christians and former governors of the northern states of Plateau and Taraba were jailed for corruption, a bulk of other corrupt former Northern governors who are all Muslims are roaming about freely because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) skewed it’s prosecutorial activities to target mostly Christians and Southerners because of the domination of Northern Muslims in the hierarchy of the EFCC.
HURIWA said the best way to begin a thoroughly professional anti graft war is to ensure federal character in the appointment of directors for the anti-graft body currently dominated by Northern Muslims.
“HURIWA views the action of early release from jail of these politicians who had barely served 30 per cent of their total jail terms as a confirmation of the well known notoriety of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s-led administration as a harbinger of the most sophisticated forms of corruption but which administration chooses to use the instrumentality of the so called anti corruption crusade to whip opposition politicians to line.
“There has never really been any crusade against corruption in the real sense of it. What EFCC does mostly is to harass students carrying expensive phones and laptops and to parade them as YahooYahoo. Whereas the real big time CORRUPT politicians who are looting Nigeria dry and mindlessly are allowed to have a field day.”
The Council of State was attended by former presidents and military heads of state, except former President Olusegun Obasanjo who is in the United States on medical vacation. The Nigerian Council of State is an organ of the Nigerian Government as stipulated by Third Schedule Part 1B of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The membership of the Council includes the President, who is Chairman; the Vice President, who is Deputy Chairman; all former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria; the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; all the Governors of the states of the Federation; and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The Council has power to advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to the national population census and compilation, publication and keeping of records and other information concerning the same; prerogative of mercy; award of national honours; the Independent National Electoral Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); the National Judicial Council (including the appointment of the members, other than ex-officio members of that Council); and the National Population Commission (including the appointment of members of that Commission); and advise the President whenever requested to do so on the maintenance of public order within the Federation or any part thereof and on such other matters as the President may direct.
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