President Muhammadu Buhari has pardoned two members of his political party who were jailed for looting state resources by federal judges.
On Thursday, Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame were freed from federal prisons after Mr Buhari informed the Council of State of his administration’s readiness to grant mercy to the politicians.
The duo served as governors of contiguous Plateau and Taraba states along the vast mountains of central and eastern regions. They were convicted in 2018 by the same judge Adebukola Banjoko of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja.
While Mr Dariye, who governed Plateau between 1999 and 2007, bagged 14 years for stealing N1.16 billion, Mr Nyame, Taraba governor from 1999 to 2007, received 12 years for stealing N1.6 billion, a verdict that was later affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2020. They were serving their respective sentences at the federal correctional facility in Kuje, a suburb of Abuja.
Mr Buhari’s cabinet announced granting clemency to 159 convicts on Thursday but hushed the names of Messrs Dariye and Nyame from the list to avoid immediate public backlash. Both politicians had joined Mr Buhari’s All Progressives Congress before being jailed, with Mr Dariye serving as a senator from Plateau.
Mr Buhari was elected in 2015 on the back of his fervent promises to stamp out corruption, but his regime has been mired in corruption, ineptitude and gross human rights violations. Earlier this week, the latest United States annual report said corruption has worsened under Mr Buhari.
Mr Buhari has denied all allegations of corruption and human rights abuses, but experts said overwhelming evidence of his actions is enough to determine his legacy.
Attorney-General Abubakar Malami, who addressed State House correspondents on the outcome of yesterday’s decisions, said 159 beneficiaries were inmates convicted and currently serving sentences for various offences.
Mr Malami said the recommendation came after the council received the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy.
“In the exercise of the powers on the granting of pardon, precisely on Aug. 28, 2018, the President put in place a committee known as the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
“It 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, to either grant pardon to those that had been convicted, clemency, or some other form of concessions by way of reduction in sentence and term.
“It was in exercise of 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 requirements 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 humous presidential pardon.
”27 inmates were recommended for presidential clemency, 13 inmates were 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”, Mr Malami said.
He added that the Council of State endorsed 159 out of the 162 convicts and advised the president to grant them pardon and mercy, rejecting three recommended convicts.
According to the minister, the Council rejected the proposal to grant pardon to one of the prisoners sentenced to 120 years for stealing over N25 billion.
“The reason for seeking pardon was because of life-threatening illness.
“The second person was convicted for forgery, sentenced to 14 years and had stayed in prison for a year and six months.
“The third person was obtaining money by false pretences and was sentenced to seven years,” he explained.
Also speaking, the Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, George Akume, disclosed that the Council approved the conferment of National Honours on 434 Nigerians.
He said: “The council approved the conferment of National Honours Award on 434 Nigerians who had distinguished themselves in various fields of endeavour. It is supposed to be an annual event, where the President confers on Nigerians, men and women of integrity and character, found worthy to be conferred with our national honours.”
The Council of State is an organ saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive arm of government on major policy decisions but has no constitutional powers to impose or override the presidential decisions.
Members of the council include the president, vice president, former presidents, Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, and the Chief Justice of Nigeria, past and serving.
Others are the Attorney General of the Federation, all state governors and the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo shunned yesterday’s meeting, taking a cue from Mr Buhari who did not attend similar meetings during the days of his predecessors despite being a former head of state from his 1980s junta.