There were indications on Tuesday that the National Council of State presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan might have approved a presidential pardon for a former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Dipreye Alamieyeisegha.
Alamieyeseigha, who Jonathan recently described as his political benefactor, was convicted of corruption.
His removal from office by the state House of Assembly led to his arrest, prosecution and conviction.
Alamieyeseigha’s exit led to the emergence of Jonathan who was his deputy, as the Bayelsa State governor.
At the end of the meeting of the NCS in Abuja on Tuesday, State House correspondents were not briefed on its outcome but sources at the meeting confirmed that the former governor was granted presidential pardon among some others whose names were presented to the council.
“Yes. It is true that presidential pardon was approved for the former governor at the meeting,” one of the state governors at the meeting, who pleaded anonymity, said.
But his position contradicted the position of his colleague from Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, who claimed that no former governor’s name was mentioned at the meeting.
He however confirmed that the issue of “state pardon” was discussed.
Nyako, who spoke with some journalists in Hausa, said the Council deliberated on the possibility of granting state clemency to certain category of offenders both at state and federal levels.
“No such issue (pardon for errant governors) was discussed. I didn’t see the name of any governor. But we considered the issue of state pardon for people who committed certain offences.
“We observed that in cases of manslaughter, pardon for such should be handled by state governors if they are committed in such states. But if it is the case of armed robbery, the Council may decide to grant pardon or the matter could be referred to the President for his consideration,” Nyako said.
There was no official confirmation on the matter at press time.
Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of the Congress Progressive Change, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said the pardon was an invitation for people to engage in corruption.
Fashakin said, “His decision is as ludicrous and laughable as giving post humous pardon to Ishola Oyenusi, Lawrence Anini and Monday Osunbor; the notorious armed robbers that terrorised Nigerians in the 70’s and 80’s!
“There is a better way to show solidarity with one’s boss than this utterly reprehensible action.”
Even while the Council of State meeting, which was held behind closed doors, was in progress, the social media were awash with reactions of Nigerians, who believed that the President would be making a mistake by attempting to grant a state pardon for his former boss.
Most Nigerians had questioned the rationale behind the purported pardon, wondering if such initiative would not encourage others to perpetrate fraud, believing that he would also be able to get a state pardon.
The situation about the pardon, however, became more confusing on Tuesday as there was neither an official statement on the reported pardon nor was there any briefing for State House reporters at the end of the meeting.
The News Agency of Nigeria that initially sent a story on the controversial pardon, had to call editors later to “withdraw” the story, saying it was sent in error.
Others, who were said to have been granted pardon at the meeting included Gen Oladipo Diya, who was the Chief of General Staff during the reign of military dictator, Gen Sani Abacha; former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Mr. Shettima Bulama, who was also convicted of fraud; and former Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, the late Gen Musa Yar’Adua.
Others said to have received the pardon at the meeting included the former Minister of Works, the late Maj.-Gen Abdulkareem Adisa, who was also found culpable in the alleged coup that landed Diya in prison.
Elected Governor of Bayelsa State in 1999, Alamieyeseigha was re-elected in 2003 for a second term and he remained in that position until September 2005 when he was arrested for money laundering in the United Kingdom.
At the time of his arrest, the Metropolitan Police found about £1m in cash in his London home. He, however, escaped from prison by allegedly disguising as a woman in December that year and returned to Nigeria.
Alamieseigha was impeached on December 9, 2005, by the Bayelsa State House of Assembly and arrested minutes after by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to face trial for charges bordering on money laundering and corrupt enrichment.
He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in July 2007, by a Federal High Court in Lagos for money laundering and corrupt enrichment.
Diya served under Abacha till November 1993, when he was arrested by the government and charged with treason. Diya and 11 others were accused of planning to overthrow Abacha’s government.
After a two-month trial at a Military tribunal, headed by Maj.-Gen Victor Malu (now retired), Diya and five other were sentenced to death by firing squad. His sentence was later commuted to 25 years imprisonment. Following Abacha’s death, Diya and his colleagues were granted amnesty and released by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who succeeded Abacha.
A social commentator, Kayode Ogundamisi, said, “If GEJ deems Dipreye Alamieyeseigha worthy of a presidential pardon, then why is James Ibori in a UK prison?
Lawyer and activist, Bamidele Aturu, said, “Presidential pardon for criminals is official jailbreak.”
Social entrepreneur, ‘Gbenga Sesan, said in his tweets, “A nation fighting corruption, and where the Commander-in-Chief has been accused of toying with such, shouldn’t pardon corrupt kinsmen. The timing of this use of (albeit) constitutional power makes it both insensitive and politically dangerous. (This) might heat up the polity.
“For this #PresidentialPardon case, hope for future sanity rests on reaction from organised civil society, Nigerian citizens.”