Enough is Enough Nigeria on the Controversial Presidential Pardon

I thoroughly agree with the EnoughisEnough Nigeria vision, and will support it where I can. However, when this PR came in, I was in two minds about publishing it. EnoughisEnough Nigeria works through activism and youth mobilization to institute a culture of good governance and public accountability in Nigeria, and so a comminique rejecting the recent Presidential Pardon is perfectly in order, I too condemned it here.

The part of their write-up II do not agree with is the part calling on the international communities to bring sanctions against Nigeria, and by extension, Nigerians. I do not believe such a call reflects well on the soverignity of the country, and if these sanctions are economic, the negative impacts will be felt most by the poorest people in Nigeria. With that out of the way, this is the message.

Last week Tuesday, March 12, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan pardoned seven Nigerians. While three of the pardons have been particularly controversial, another three have raised semantic issues as they had been granted ‘clemency’ under the regime of General Abdusalam Abubakar in 1999.

Of the seven pardons granted, the most talked about is that of ex-Governor D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa state, who jumped bail in the UK in 2005 on money laundering charges but was later tried and convicted in Nigeria by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Mr Alamieyeseigha is still wanted abroad. The second most talked about pardon, is that of Major Bello Magaji, who was convicted in 1996 of sodomizing little children. The third controversial pardon is that given to Mustapha Bulama, former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, who converted customers’ deposits into personal funds, crashing what was once Nigeria's biggest bank.

While the role of the Council of State has been discussed severally, the Constitution makes it very clear that they only advice and the final decision belongs to the President. It is pertinent to note that save General Yakubu Gowon, those who attended the meeting have remained quiet.

While we accept that Nigeria's history has some other controversial pardons, and that the President's action is legal, we must point out the odious message sent out by these pardons in the fight against corruption, and in the fight to institutionalise the Child's Rights Act in our country. These pardons do nothing for the President's stated fight against corruption and his oft repeated commitment to the rule of law. This action takes us steps back in the country’s fight against corruption as it sends a strong message in support of state-sanctioned looting of public funds and abuse of power.

In responding to the Alamieyeseigha Pardon, Bamanga Tukur, the Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party said, “The question is: do you grant pardon to the innocent? No! Amnesty is granted to those people he felt did some wrong and after some time, their behavior and attitude showed that the wrong they did was just a slip.”

Our own question then follows, “If consistently pillaging the resources of a state over the course of 6 years is considered ‘a slip’, what signal does that send to our current Governors and other elected officials?” Indeed, Alamieyeseigha has never apologised publicly for his crime. Rather, he continues to this day, to maintain that he was set-up by former President Obasanjo, and former EFCC Chairman, Nuhu Ribadu, as a result of his opposition to the former's third term bid. Therefore, we wonder where and when Alamieyeseigha demonstrated that his behaviour was “a slip” as stated by Alhaji Tukur.

By Alhaji Tukur's reasoning, our elected officials can look forward to a cycle of impunity summarised below:

1. Loot State funds

2. Forfeit some & keep the rest

3. Get a prison term (or not)

4. Get a Presidential Pardon

5. Run for office

6. Repeat Step 1

Mr President’s spokesmen have consistently quoted the Constitution and emphasized that his actions were legal. However, the same Constitution states that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people. How can the welfare of the people be served if individuals elected to represent and serve the people are allowed to steal funds allocated to the people and be pardoned for it?

The same Constitution also requires elected officials to declare their assets before assumption of office. Something Mr President himself said on national TV last year that he “doesn’t give a damn” about. This pardon is yet another example of selective compliance with the law by the holder of the highest office in the land and this sets a very bad example.

On the issue of Mr Bulama, what message are we sending to people who by their actions almost single-handedly bring down an entire section of our economy? Indeed, perhaps Mr President should also have pardoned former bank Managing Directors who also ran their banks into the ground and in many instances, wiped out the hard earned savings of ordinary Nigerians.

And finally, regarding Major Magaji, in what country, ever, has a pedophile rapist been granted a state pardon? The details of Magaji’s escapades are horrifying. In a more civilised environment, he would be on a sex-offenders’ register, and not the recipient of a state pardon. The reality is that Magaji’s pardon is far worse, and infinitely more disgusting than those granted to Messrs Bulama and Alamieyeseigha. There is no parent in his right mind, who would accept such a pardon for a man who lured unsuspecting children to his home, got them drunk, and then raped them brutally. Indeed, we wonder if Mr President were the parent of any of Magaji's victims, whether he would celebrate this pardon. Our children are our future, and it is our duty to make it known without any doubt that they are our most precious possessions. Anyone who dares to trample on them, will be dealt with to the fullest possible extent of the law.

In pardoning these three individuals, Mr President seems to be saying he does not give a damn about public accountability and the welfare of Nigeria’s children.

In light of this,

(1) Alamieyeseigha is still wanted in the UK; Nigeria is party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the pardon has set the fight against corruption back at least a decade, we ask that the pardon of Alamieyeseigha, Bulama & Magaji be rescinded.

(2) We call on the international community to place a visa embargo on all Nigerians convicted of looting state funds and their family members.

(3) We also call on the international community to use all possible sanctions and penalties to convey their strongest disapproval of the pardon.

(4) Finally, we call on all Nigerians as we prepare for 2015 to remember clearly those who abuse political office but still want to be our representatives in government.

Enough is enough!

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.