Mike Ozekhome, human rights lawyer, says President Muhammadu Buhari erred in law by granting pardon to Joshua Dariye, former governor of P…
Mike Ozekhome, human rights lawyer, says President Muhammadu
Buhari erred in law by granting pardon to Joshua Dariye, former governor of
Plateau state, and Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba state.
Nyame is serving a 12-year jail sentence for diverting N1.64
billion during his tenure as governor of Taraba, while Dariye is serving 10
years imprisonment for N1.126 billion fraud.
The former governors were among 159 inmates pardoned at a
council of state meeting on Thursday.
They were granted pardons on the grounds of age and
Ozekhome faulted the decision of the council in a statement
issued on Saturday, noting that the president acted beyond his constitutional
The senior lawyer said since the offences were committed
against states, it lies in the hands of the state governors to grant them a
“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,” he said.
“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.
“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.
“The act of granting amnesty or pardon though discretionary,
this discretion must be exercised judiciously and in the best interest of the
country, so as not to create doubts in and dampen the confidence of, the
citizenry in the national moral fabric, and in the fight against corruption.”
Ozekhome added that “the purpose of criminal prosecution is
to secure justice, not only for the accused but also for the victims of crimes
and the State; and to some extent get reparation and restitution for the
victims while deterring others from going the same route”.
“I dare say that in
these two instances, both the President and the Council of State goofed and
abused their undoubted constitutional powers and privileges,” he added.
“A constitutional issue as volatile as this could have been
better managed if the minders of the president had told him the embarrassment
this could cause the government in the estimation of the comity of nations. And
it is doing just that.
“Granted that the constitution gives the president and the
governors the power of prerogative to pardon criminals in deserving
circumstances, must it be done in the vulgar way and manner the instant case
“In fairness to the president, not all the 159 convicts and
ex-convicts granted presidential pardon are politicians. But, the most
prominent of them are the two former governors.
“That is what has led
to the national ruckus, bedlam and hoopla. This is because it could be argued
(and rightly too), that the main essence of the last meeting of the council of
state was to give an imprimatur to, and grant pardon to the two political
heavyweights, while making up the number with some insignificant lightweight
ones, using garnished veneer and sleight of hand.
“The president by so doing has certainly violated the
provisions of the Constitution and his oaths of office and allegiance to defend
“This recent pardon,
in my humble view, is the worst way to fight corruption. It will further water,
nurture and elevate corruption to a fundamental objective.”