Indications emerged Thursday that former governors of Taraba state, Jolly Nyame, and Joshua Dariye of Plateau state were among the 159 convicts granted pardon by the Council of State.
Similarly, Blueprint also gathered that a former army general and minister of communications under the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, and his late special assistant, Lt. Col. Oluwole Oyebanji Akinyode, and all the junior officers jailed over the 1990 abortive Gideon Orkar coup, were also on the list.
However, it was reliably learnt that unlike other beneficiaries, a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, jailed for 25.7billion fraud, had his request for pardon rejected by the Council.
He was jailed June 17, 2021 alongside Ugo Anyanwu, a former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the bank.
While Atuche bagged six years, the trial judge, Justice Lateefa Okunu of the Lagos High Court, sentenced Anyanwu to 4-year imprisonment.
Atuche, it would be recalled, had begged the court not to jail him, saying he had learnt his lessons, and that he did not want to be an ex-convict.
Pleading with the court, Atuche had said: “All the time I was the MD of Bank PHB, I gave my all to the bank. Never at any material time did it occur to me that I would set up a scheme to defraud the bank.
“I plead for mercy, leniency, your kindness, and I plead that out of your kindness and generosity, you will not allow me to go to jail. I am sorry and remorseful.” he said.
Atuche further told the court that as a professional banker and chartered accountant, he certainly did not want to become a convict.
“I pray that God will place in your heart to be kind. I plead from the bottom of my heart. I’m extremely sorry; today will be a turning point in my life, I’m very sorry,” he said.
Nyame, Dariye’s travails
Nyame, a former governor of Taraba state (1999 to 2007), was serving a 12-year jail term at the Kuje Prison over N1.64 billion fraud, with the Supreme Court upholding his conviction February 2020.
For Dariye, former governor of Plateau state who got jailed while serving as a lawmaker, the court found him guilty of stealing public funds to the tune of N1.6 billion during his tenure as governor between 1999 and 2007.
He got into the Senate 2015 and jailed June 2018, during which he served out his tenure as lawmaker until 2019.
Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court Abuja had on June 12, 2018 convicted Dariye and originally sentenced him to 14 – year imprisonment on charges of criminal breach of trust and two years jail terms for criminal misappropriation.
Upon appeal, however, the Court of Appeal in Abuja November 16, 2018, commuted the jail term to 10.
In a affirming its decision, the Court of Appeal held that section 416 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, prohibited the imposition of a maximum sentence on a first offender.
Dissatisfied, Dariye proceeded to the Supreme Court, where Justice Ejembi Emo, a member of the five-man panel, ruled that the former governor’s appeal “succeeded in part” having quashed his conviction in respect of charges of criminal misappropriation.
The former lawmaker’s effort to exit the prison in 2021 failed as a five-man panel of the apex court, led by Mary Odili (JSC), though in a unanimous decision, quashed the aspect of his conviction over criminal misappropriation, but that was not sufficient to let him off the hook.
The offences for which he was discharged, only attracted two-year jail term out of the 14 years handed him by the lower court.
In specific terms, the Supreme Court upheld the former lawmaker’s conviction in respect of criminal breach of trust, which attracted a 10-year jail term.
In attendance at the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, were former President Goodluck Jonathan, two former Heads of State, Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar, while former President Olusegun Obasanjo was said to be away to the United States on medical vacation.
The Council of State is a constitutional organ saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive arm of government on major policy decisions.
The membership include the President, Vice President, past Presidents, Senate President, Speaker House of Representatives, as well as the Chief Justice of Nigeria, past and serving.
The rest are the Attorney-General of the Federation, all State Governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
AGF Malami briefs
Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) who briefed journalists at the end of the meeting, was however silent on the identity of the beneficiaries of the Council’s magnanimity.
He said the recommendation came after the council received the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
“In the exercise of the powers on the granting of pardon, precisely on the 28th day of August 2018, the President put in place a committee known as the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, which was saddled with the responsibility of visiting the country’s correctional facilities and making recommendations to the President on the exercise of his power of mercy and compassion, by way of either granting pardon to those that have been convicted, clemency, or some other form of concessions by way of reduction in sentence and term.
“It was in exercise such duties and responsibility in line with the terms of the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy that we presented the report to the President and the requirement of the law on the exercise of that mercy and pardon, should seek the advice of the Council of State.
“In line with that, a memo was presented by the president this afternoon to the council through which the report of the Committee was presented to council for its advice. The Committee made a submission of 162 people presented to the President for such consideration.
“26 of the inmates are recommended for presidential pardon, 85 of surviving ex-convicts were recommended for presidential pardon, one deceased person was recommended for post humours presidential pardon, 27 inmates were recommended for presidential clemency, 13 inmates were recommended for a review of their sentences or prison terms, 10 inmates were presented for a reduced sentence from death to life imprisonment. In total, 162 convicts were presented for the President’s consideration for pardon and mercy,” he said.
Malami also said the Council of States endorsed 159 out of the 162 convicts and advised the president to grant them pardon and mercy, but rejected three of the recommended convicts.
“The Council rejected proposal to grant pardon to one of the prisoners sentenced to 120 years for stealing over N25 billion. The reason for seeking for pardon was because of life threatening illness.
“The second person was convicted for forgery, sentenced for 14 years and has stayed in prison for a year and six months. The third person was obtaining money by false pretence and was sentenced for seven years,” Malami further explained.
Also speaking, Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs Senator George Akume disclosed that over 400 nominations were endorsed by the council for the granting of national honours.
“The council approved the conferment of National Honours Award on 434 Nigerians who have distinguished themselves in the various field of endeavours.
“It is supposed to be a yearly event, where the president confers on worthy Nigerians, men and women of integrity and character and are therefore, found worthy to be conferred with our national honours,” he said.
Prior to the commencement of the meeting, a minute silence was observed in honour of late Head of Interim Government Chief Ernest Shonekan by members.