President Muhammadu Buhari has come under fire over what has been described as his unnecessary, politically motivated, ill-advised and hasty decision to grant pardon to two former Governors jailed for corrupt practices.
Senator Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Mr Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, who were convicted for corruption, were recently pardoned on health and age grounds when they still have several years to complete their jail terms.
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, wondered how the President has reached a consideration that at their relatively young ages they are too old to be in prison confinement whereas there are thousands of awaiting trial inmates and convicted prisoners who are above 80 in Nigerian prisons whose offences are as simple as theft of chickens from their neighbours.
HURIWA said this discrimination on the basis of political connection will adversely harm the rule of law.
HURIWA recalled that the National Council of State had granted state pardon to Dariye and Nyame of Plateau and Taraba States respectively.
The rights group recalled that the two former governors were among 159 prisoners pardoned by the Council at a meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa in Abuja on Thursday.
Among the beneficiaries are a former military general and minister under the Sani Abacha regime, Tajudeen Olanrewaju, an army lieutenant colonel, Akiyode, who was an aide of former deputy to General Abacha, Oladipo Diya; and all the junior officers jailed over the 1990 abortive Gideon Orkar coup.
HURIWA applauded the release of the military officers most of whom were roped into phantom charges of a coup plot by the then maximum dictator General Sani Abacha.
HURIWA recalled that Mr Nyame, who is 66, governor of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007, was serving a 12-year jail term at the Kuje prison for misappropriation of funds while he was in office. The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in February 2020.
Relatedly, Mr Dariye who later got elected as Senator, who is 64, and governed Plateau between 1999 and 2007, was jailed for stealing N2 billion of public funds during his time as Plateau State governor between 1999 and 2007. The former governor, elected as senator representing Plateau Central in the Senate in 2015, was sentenced in June 2018 but still completed his tenure in jail in June 2019.
HURIWA however condemned the early release of the duo, particularly on the ground of seeking to use their political popularity in their minority northern Christian states of Plateau and Taraba to canvass Electoral advantage for the All Progressives Congress in whose administration since 2015 the only high profile politicians jailed for corruption are the two Christian Northerners.
HURIWA, in a statement signed by the national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it was a scandal of monumental proportions that whilst the two Christians and former governors of the northern states of Plateau and Taraba were jailed for corruption, a bulk of other corrupt former Northern Governors who are all Moslems are roaming about freely because the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission skewed it’s prosecutorial activities to target mostly Christians and Southerners because of the domination of Northern Moslems in the hierarchy of the EFCC.
HURIWA said the best way to begin a thoroughly professional anti-graft war is to ensure Federal character in the appointment of directors for the anti-graft body currently dominated by Northern Moslems.
HURIWA said it views the action of early release from jail of these politicians who had barely served 30% of their total jail terms as a confirmation of the well-known notoriety of the Buhari led administration as a harbinger of the most sophisticated forms of corruption but which administration chooses to use the instrumentality of the so-called anti-corruption crusade to whip opposition politicians to the line.
“There has never really been any crusade against corruption in the real sense of it. What EFCC does mostly is to harass students carrying expensive phones and laptops and to parade them as YAHOOYAHOO. Whereas the real big time CORRUPT politicians who are looting Nigeria dry and mindlessly are allowed to have a field day.”
“It is now survival of the fittest and the most connected in Nigeria of 2022”.