A forum of state-based civil society networks operating in the nineteen Northern states of Nigeria, the Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to withdraw the state pardon granted to two former state governors who were jailed for stealing public funds in 2018.
The two former Governors, Joshua Dariye of Plateau and Jolly Nyame of Taraba, were recently given a clean bill, despite having not served half the length of their jail terms in prison.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu had in a note presented to the Council of State after the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) report, maintained that Section 175 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) empowers the President to exercise his constitutional powers to grant a pardon.
Shehu said while it is natural that the cases of the ex-governors would generate criticisms, ‘the President would have come across as insensitive, were he to have ignored compelling cases recommended for pardon because someone is a former Governor’, insisting the Buhari anti-corruption war is still on course despite the pardon granted to two former State chief executives.
But in a statement issued by the Chairman of the Conference, Ambassador Ibrahim Waiya, and signed by the 19 member-NGOs, the group urged the President to reverse the state pardon, as it does not speak well of his claimed commitment to fighting corruption.
Describing the pardon as rather unfortunate, shocking and at best, paradoxical coming from a man who rode to the corridor of power under the guise of anti- corruption, the Conference said corruption over the years in Nigeria, had gradually succeeded in causing a loss of trust and a breakdown of social capital in governance.
“We all know that corruption is a threat to development, democracy and stability.
“It distorts markets, curbs economic growth and discourages foreign investments.
“It also erodes public services and trust in government officials,” the group said.
According to the group, in recent time, the anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria, most especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has re-ignited the hopes of Nigerians through its diligent prosecution of high profiled corruption cases, where the current chairman had to stand in the witness box for several hours to ensure that, corrupt individuals are brought to book.
“AbdulRasheed Bawa recovered over ten billion naira, several properties and secured 185 convictions across EFCC zonal offices in just 100 days in office.
“He also launched an application called ‘Eagle Eye’ to ease the reporting of corruption related cases across the country, to ensure that swift responses and interventions are provided through a dedicated team of the commission.
“Statistics have it that the lack of job opportunities is at the core of the high poverty levels, regional inequality, social and political unrest in Nigeria.
“High inflation has also taken a toll on household’s welfare and high prices of essential commodities.
“The Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics said in 2020 that 40% or 83 million Nigerians live in abject poverty.
“Although Nigeria’s poverty profile for 2021 has not yet been released, it is estimated that the number of poor people will increase to 90 million, or 45% of the population, in 2022.
“One would have thought that the current administration will pre-occupy itself in solving the pressing economic woos of the nation, rather than demoralizing the anti- corruption agencies effort and dampening their resolve to contain the cancer of corruption in the country,” the group said.
They reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that fighting against corruption was the leading pillar of his campaign promises and administration agenda, upon which many Nigerians believed and supported his presidential bid.
The group noted that it is unfortunate that, since the inception of the Buhari-administration in 2015, the actions and policies of the Government have always been against the efforts to support and strengthen the anti-graft institutions in Nigeria, such as EFCC, Judiciary and others.
“We are aware of the level at which corruption has succeeded in undermining the operations of many institutions and processes, and giving rise to anti-public policies.
“Consequently, if such practices are allowed to thrive continuously, corruption would damage, in entirety, the legitimacy of this regime and shall surely lead to a total loss of public sympathy and trust in the system.
“Similarly, the Conference of Northern States Civil Society Networks wishes to remind His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari one of his favorite statements “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us”.
“The current action to grant a state pardon to some corruption convicts, is surely a disservice to the nation and a breach of social contract between the President and the Nigerian citizens on whose mandate, the President acts.
“We, the members of this great conference, and as anti- corruption ambassadors hereby condemn this action in totality and request President Buhari, to as a matter of urgency, reverse his decision on state pardon granted to some corruption convicts, in the interest of Nigerian citizens.
“Failure of the President Muhammadu Buhari to reverse his action, the Conference shall be left with no option but to canvass for the support of other civil society organizations across the country and beyond to pass a vote of no confidence on Federal Government, and this measure we believe may lead to a total loss of public trust, and by implication, the Government may lose its integrity and support of the Nigerian citizens,” the group said.