The Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe on Wednesday confirmed media reports that the Council of States has granted state pardon to the former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Okupe listed the other ex-convicts that were granted state pardon to include: Oladipo Diya, Major Bello Magaji, Mohammed Lima Biu, Major General Abdulkareem Adisa (Post Humous), Major Segun Fadipe and former head of the Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama.
Over the years, presidential pardon has been an instrument of power used by Nigerian leaders to unconditionally set free prisoners of conscience and political detainees. The president’s power is exercised after seeking advice from the National Council of State.
The Council of State is comprised of the president, all former heads of the government of the Federation, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, all state governors and the attorney general of the federation.
It was in 2005 that the man who topped the list of those granted state pardon was arrested at the Heathrow Airport in London on suspicion of money laundering. At that time, he was the governor of Bayelsa State in Nigeria’s south-south region and boss of President Jonathan who served as his deputy.
The arrest of Former Governor Alamieyesigha followed investigations by the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of the London Metropolitan Police. Investigators later found an amount equivalent to about 1 million dollars in his London home.
He was granted bail after the arrest on the condition that he would remain in the UK but 3 months later and despite the bail restrictions, the former governor managed to flee the United Kingdom and return to Nigeria.
It was believed that he intended to resume office, after assuming that he was safe from prosecution because of the constitutional immunity he enjoyed as Governor.
A few days after his return however, he was served impeachment notices outlining 8 impeachable offences against him. A month later in Dec 2005, Two thirds majority of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly voted to impeach Governor Alamieyeseigha.
This effectively removed him from office and also removed his domestic immunity paving the way for his arrest and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), led then by Nuhu Ribadu.
In July 2007, he eventually pleaded guilty to six counts of making false declaration of assets before Justice Mohammed Shuaibu of a federal high court, Lagos in what later came to be known as a plea bargain arrangement. In sentencing him to 2years, the court also ordered a forfeiture of some assets, including N1 billion shares fraudulently obtained with funds of the government of Bayelsa State.
It is for these offences that President Goodluck Jonathan has now bestowed a state pardon on his former boss.
Major Oladipo Diya, on his part is a retired Lt. General in the Nigerian Army. The former Military Governor of Ogun State and former Chief of the General Staff, during the Sani Abacha military regime. He was arrested for treason in 1997.
He and a group of dissident soldiers in the military were alleged to have planned to overthrow the regime of late Gen Sani Abacha. The alleged coup was uncovered by forces loyal to Gen Abacha, and the former Chief of general staff was subsequently jailed.
He was tried before a military tribunal, was given the death penalty. However following public outcry to the secrecy of his trial and after the untimely death of Gen Abacha in 1998, Gen Abdusalam Abubakar, the then head of state in March 1999, commuted the death sentence to a 25yr jail term and eventually Gen Diya was granted amnesty and released.
The other accused persons charged, convicted & sentenced with Gen Diya are Maj. Gen. Tajudeen Olanrewaju and Maj. Gen. Adulkareem Adisa, Major Segun Fadipe, Major Bello Magaji and Mohammed Lima Biu all of whom have also now been granted state pardon.
While most of the others are alive to enjoy the pardon, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Major-General Abdulkarim Adisa are post-humous beneficiaries.
While General Adisa died in a car crash, Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua the elder brother of former Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua died in detention in Dec 1997. He was serving a life sentence for calling on the Nigerian military government of Gen. Sani Abacha and his Provisional Ruling Council to reestablish civilian rule.
For many however, the most controversial of these state pardon remains that granted to the former governor of Bayelsa state and the former managing director of the Bank of the North Nig Plc, Alhaji Shettima Mohammed Bulama, both of whom were convicted for fraud after an arraignment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).