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THE decision of the nation’s Council of States, led by President Goodluck Jonathan, to pardon the former BayelsaState governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and other ex-convicts, has continued to generate ripples in and out of Nigeria.
Others beneficiaries of the Greek gift include a former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua; former Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Oladipo Diya; the late Major-General Abdulkareem Adisa; former Minister of Communications, Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju; Major Segun Fadipe; Major Bello Magaji; Mohammed Lima Biu; former Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama; and Dr. Chiichii Ashwe.
On the list, Alamieyeseigha’s case seems to be singled-out as the most controversial for a number of reasons.
The former governor was recently described by President Jonathan as his ‘political benefactor’, having been removed from office by the state House of Assembly, through impeachment that eventually led to his arrest, prosecution and conviction.
We recall that the UK Metropolitan Police allegedly found about £1m in cash in his London home, as he later escaped from prison by disguising as a woman in December that year and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in July 2007, having pleaded guilty in a Federal High Court in Lagos for money laundering and corrupt enrichment.
The British Broadcasting Corporation had infamously dubbed him “Nigeria’s Runaway Governor”.
The latest farce and controversial pardon is seen by many observers as an attestation to the fact that the government’s acclaimed anti-corruption is a mere ruse.
While it is a common knowledge that there are other public officials in Nigeria, who have committed similar or more egregious harm than Alamieyeseigha, the timing of the pardon is also out of place.
Number one, Alamieyeseigha may have served-out his jail time, still he’s yet to apologise to the people of BayelsaState for abuse of the trust they placed in him and for mismanaging their resources.
Secondly, public record shows that he is yet to satisfy the British authorities – from where he purportedly took flight at the height of the criminal allegations against him. He still has a case to answer.
Thirdly, it was alleged that the very week he was granted state pardon coincided with when he ought to respond to another criminal complaints in the United States of America.
Due to these complexities, many people believe that the state pardon was political. They opined that the coupists were merely brought into the picture to give credibility to the process.
It was learnt that the whole process was meant just for the former governor, who was Jonathan’s principal as Bayelsa helmsman when the President was his deputy and that he (Alamieyeseigha) is planning to return to the political limelight by running for the Senate in 2015 elections – badly needs0 the state pardon to achieve his goal.
From the reactions, criticism and outburst generated so far, the pardon appears to be the most controversial in the annals of Nigeria.
Legally speaking, the President’s action in consonance with the NCS relied on Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution to grant the former convicted persons state pardon and is designed to have the effect of treating a conviction as though it never happened.
It removes the stigma by restoring the convict to normal life in the sense that the pardon is a prerogative of a grantor.
Mr. ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from Federal Varsity of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.