The United States has condemned the pardon granted some ex-convicts by President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Council of State, insisting that there is no justification to grant pardon to corrupt individuals as the action represents a setback in the war against graft.
The Obama administration on Friday threatened to cut off aid to Nigeria or even sanction the African country after the government of President Goodluck Jonathan pardoned a former governor accused of corruption. “The United States government is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian government,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
“We see this as a setback for the fight against corruption and also for our ability to play the strong role we've played in supporting rule of law and legal institution building in Nigeria, which is very important for the future of the country, obviously.” Asked if the United States could cut off aid — Nigeria was slated to receive $660.5 million in the president's 2012 budget, more than any other sub-Saharan country except Ethiopia — Nuland didn't rule it out.In a tweet by the US Mission in Nigeria, the US faulted the propriety of Jonathan’s action on the matter, saying, “We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption.”
The US further stated that “the United States Government is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by GON (Government of Nigeria)”. President Jonathan and the Council of State had, on Tuesday, granted former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former managing director of the defunct Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama, pardon.
The move has been condemned by civil society and other interest groups. Both Alamieyeseigha and Bulama had been prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the leadership of the former EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, while justices Dan Abutu and Mohammed Shuaibu of the Federal High Court in Lagos convicted them accordingly.
Meanwhile, prominent lawyers have criticised the double posthumous state pardon granted the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua by President Goodluck Jonathan, saying that the development shows that the president is not getting quality advice from the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke.
Lawyers including Prof Itse Sagay (SAN), Yusuf Ali (SAN), Mr Yahaya Mahmood (SAN), Ms Carol Ajie and Mr Festus Keyamo argued that it is wrong for the president to grant another pardon to the former chief of staff, supreme headquarters, when the former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, had already granted pardon to the deceased on September 30, 1998. The lawyers spoke.
Many Nigerians believed that the president used the pardon of the late Yar’Adua, General Oladipo Diya and other military officers as a decoy to absolve his former boss of monumental financial crimes against Bayelsa State. Commenting on the issue of granting another pardon to Yar’Adua, Sagay said, “He (Yar’Adua) doesn’t need another pardon.
It is superfluous. Yahaya Mahmood said, “Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) gives the president the powers to grant a pardon to any person convicted of an offence after consultation with the Council of State. If a person has already been pardoned, the president has no powers to pardon him again. It is also a big embarrassment.”
For Yusuf Ali, “ This is an oversight on the part of the federal government on the grounds that the action of Gen Abdulsalami on September 30, 1998, had settled the issue of pardon for the late Yar’ Adua. Jonathan ought to have checked the record before taking this avoidable action.” Ajie said, “President Jonathan should please return AGF Bello Adoke to his private practice; for our country’s good, replace him with a senior lady lawyer who has a great sense of law and order to complement, in a very historic way, the third arm of government.
“Adoke has too often embarrassed the president; clearly Yar Adua’s ‘second pardon’ was the product of a misinformed Justice department under a justice minister who is more keen on causing confusion than solution. I recall in 2010 when Bedding Holdings Limited got an ex-parte injunction to stop INEC registration exercise in a case I was effectively tackling, AGF Adoke was just not interested in the legal solutions; even at the risk of the presidential election not holding, he was nonchalant and unpatriotic but for my humble legal efforts that contributed in saving the situation.”
Speaking on the double pardon, the chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Bwari Branch, Dickson O.A. Ibe, said what General Abdulsalami Abubakar did to late Musa Yar’adua, Adisa and General Oladipo Diya is not state pardon but reduction of the death sentence to life imprisonment for Diya. He said, “This pardon will now set him free on the streets. I strongly believe this pardon is expected to give absolute freedom to these people. It can be described as a double but this is a final pardon instead. There is nothing wrong in granting pardon to these people.
“Morally speaking, it depends on the people. People think something is wrong because of their level of knowledge but the law must be followed. If anything is done legally or within the legal confines, it behoves anybody who is developed in mind to know that it is done morally.” In his own view, the chairman of the NBA, Gwagwalada branch, John E.T. Amokaha, said: “If a man is pardoned twice, it is called surplusage and the only implication is that we do not have records in respect to such serious matters. Where there are many people and you are granting pardon to same people who were pardoned before, it is an indication of our state of craft , inefficiency of our state services or incompetence.
“Morally speaking, the act of pardon on these people is not right. It is not good for our democracy and country because, how can we be fighting corruption and at the same time glorifying corrupt citizens who have been convicted for corruption. I feel disappointed especially with regards to people that were convicted for corruption. It is morally wrong.” Meanwhile, efforts to speak with Adoke failed as he did not pick our correspondent’s calls neither did he return the text message sent to his mobile phone. One of our correspondents also visited the office of the AGF in Abuja yesterday on two occasions but he was informed that the AGF was not available.