Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome, has condemned release of ex-governors of Plateau and Taraba states, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame from prison, saying President Muhammadu Buhari violated constitutional provisions and insulted the moral fabric of the nation.
Ozekhome’s comment is coming a day after fellow SAN, Femi Falana, asked Buhari to also pardon
It will be recalled that the president, following approval by the Council of States, had pardoned about 159 convicts serving jail terms across the nation on Thursday, including Nyame and Dariye.
The duo was serving 12 and 10 years’ jail terms respectively for misuse of state funds.
In a statement sent to THE WHISTLER on Saturday, Ozekhome said the former governors having being convicted under state laws, only the current governors of their respective states can initiate pardon for them.
He considered Buhari’s pardon of the two former governors as being illegal.
He stated: “There is the more worrisome legal conundrum in the entire presidential pardon as it pertains to the two Governors. This is whether the president could have legally granted pardon to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba States respectively, having regards to the fact that both men were convicted for offences allegedly committed between November 2000 and May 2007.
“The offences under which they were tried and convicted fall under State laws which took place after the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution during which time they were Governors.
” Specifically, they were tried and convicted under sections 115,119 and 309 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, LFN, 1990, obviously an existing State law within the meaning, import and true purport of sections 315(1)(b) and 318 of the 1999 Constitution.
” This Act which became effective as a state law is applicable to the FCT and the Northern States. This Penal Code Act ,not being a federal legislation of the NASS, became an existing state law deemed duly enacted by the 19 Northern States by virtue of section 315(1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution. It becomes clear therefore that only the Governors of Plateau and Taraba States could have legally and rightly granted pardon to Dariye and Nyame,invoking section 212 of the Constitution; and not Mr President under section 175 of the Constitution. “
Ozekhome also stated that the pardon sends a wrong signal to residents of the respective states whose monies were stolen by the two former governors.
“The moral implications of granting pardon to people may send different messages and signals to different people.
“The messages could either be seen as genuine forgiveness, connivance, condonation, conspiracy, or impetus, etc.
“This brings us to the case of Senators Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame, both former Governors, who had been convicted and imprisoned for stealing billions of naira from the coffers of their state treasuries and thus impoverished the very people they were elected to govern. These individuals were the Chief Executives of their states.
“They had sworn oaths of office and allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and vowed that they would govern their states with utmost good faith. However, they betrayed their people by stealing from them. They breached the trust reposed in them. None of them admitted their guilt or wrongdoings until the courts found them guilty, up to the Supreme Court.
” As a matter of fact, Joshua Dariye was a sitting Senator when the Supreme Court affirmed the 10 year jail term earlier passed on him. What then is the basis for granting pardon to these individuals in a country where corruption is the bane and struts around imperiously like a peacock?”
Earlier, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana SAN had wondered why Buhari did not pardon “petty thieves”.
He threatened to mobilize lawyers to engage the federal government on it.
“All petty thieves in our prisons should be released. Under Section 17 of the 1999 Constitution, there shall be equality and equal rights for all citizens.
“Section 42 of the Constitution says there shall be no discrimination on the basis of class and gender, so you cannot take out a few people on the basis that they belong to a category or section of the society.
“I can assure you that if the government did not release others, I am going to call on lawyers whose clients are left in custody to come to court and challenge the discriminatory treatment on their clients.
“Just two weeks ago, a Nigerian was jailed for stealing N1,000 in Abuja; the accused pleaded with the judge that he had no food but the judge jailed him for six months.
“When we are talking of justice and fair play, if you want to pardon some set of people, then you must also extend presidential pardon to petty thieves in the prisons.
“This is because if the big thieves are being asked to go, then they must also extend the facility to other Nigerians.”