Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
National Council of State Thursday ratified the pardon granted to a former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Professor Ambrose Alli, and three other citizens convicted for attempted coups.
The council also approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s prerogative of mercy to pardon 39 prison inmates.
Ali, who governed the old Bendel State, now split into Edo and Delta states, from 1979-1983 in the Second Republic, was convicted during the military rule of Buhari in 1984 for alleged misapplication of over N983,000 in funds for a road project.
Although the late professor returned the money, the military tribunal, which tried him for the offence, nonetheless sentenced him to 100 years in prison. He later became blind before his eventual death.
Aside Alli, the council also approved presidential pardon for 44 others, including two military officers said to have been convicted for attempted coup during the military regime of former military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.), and a civilian.
The three men are: Col. Moses Effiong, Major E.J Olarenwaju, and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
Briefing reporters after the virtual meeting, presided over by the president, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the ratification of the presidential pardon followed the presentation of a memorandum from the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy to the council.
According to him, in accordance with the constitutional requirement, which empowers the president to exercise prerogative of mercy to pardon prisoners, the council ratified presidential pardon for two inmates and clemency for 39 others, bringing the total beneficiaries of the president’s prerogative of mercy to 45, including Alli and the three alleged coup plotters.
He said the prerogative of mercy granted inmates was part of the efforts to decongest correctional centres to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “The memo presented for consultation in line with one of the constitutional requirements and consideration of grant of pardon to 45 persons, two inmates for pardon, 39 inmates for clemency and four ex-convict for presidential pardon.
“To further clarify on the prerogative of mercy, Mr. President, with COVID-19 pandemic, has directed the decongestion of our correctional centres across the country. And by way of collaborative action, the governors, heads of courts across the nations, have worked assiduously in collaboration with the presidential committee on decongestion of our correctional centres and at the end of the day we have succeeded in taking out over 4,000 inmates out of our correctional centers across the country.
“What we have today is a consolidation of what has been done and the strategies put in place to see to the decongestion of our correctional centres.
“As you are aware, more than 70 per cent inmates in our correctional centres were awaiting trial across the country and a lot of considerations were put in place to ensure our correctional centres are decongested, the prerogative of mercy was one of such considerations by Mr. President.”
Malami added that the council approved the appointments of two lawyers as members of the Federal Judicial Service Commission in line with the power conferred on the president to appoint members of the commission, subject to consultation with the Council of State.
“The exercise this morning relating to the presentation of the council memo was for the purpose of fulfilling the constitutional righteousness relating to the appointment of the two new legal practitioners, in essence it is to consult with the Council of State out of desire for compliance with constitutional requirements.
“The two members to represent Nigerian Bar Association on the Federal Judicial Service Commission are: Namoso Ekanem (SAN), from Akwa Ibom State, representing the South-south geo-political zone; and Mammud Abubakar Mogaji (SAN) from Niger State to represent the North-central geo-political zone,” he added.
In his own briefing, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, who also participated in the meeting, said apart from former President Olusegun Obasanjo, all former Nigerian leaders participated in the meeting.
Mustapha said the council commended the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for its job in combating the pandemic and noted the impact of the pandemic on the economy and how it has exposed the weaknesses of the health system.
He said the council appealed to Nigerians to continue to adhere to COVID-19 protocols until vaccines would be available to treat the disease.
According to him, the meeting also approved the nominations of members of the National Population Commission (NPC).
He listed members of the commission whose nominations were approved as Muhammed Chuso A. Dottijo (Sokoto); Alhaji Razaq Gidado (Kwara); Ibrahim Mohammed (Bauchi); Joseph Kwai Shazin (FCT); Mr. Bala Almu Banya (Katsina); and Mrs. Bimbola Salu-Hundeyin (Lagos).
On his part, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj. Gen. Babagana Mungonu (rtd.), said he briefed the council on the security challenges facing the country, adding that the council approved the establishment of National Centre for Control of Small and Light Weapons to be domiciled in NSA’s office.
However, while Obasanjo was absent from the meeting, only former President Goodluck Jonathan, among the former leaders, was physically present with the president in the State House.
Other former leaders who attended the meeting virtually were: General Yakubu Gowon (rtd); General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd); Chief Ernest Shonekan, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).