THE Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, and Transparency International, TI, Nigeria, weekend, criticised President Muhammadu Buhari over pardoning convicted corrupt politicians.
The two organisations decried the names recommended by the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy in a statement signed by the Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani.
They described the action of the Buhari-led administration as worrisome and ill-thought political pardon, saying it will impede the fight against corruption, which will serve as discouragement to anti-graft agencies and disservice to Nigerians suffering as a result.
The statement reads in part, “The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Transparency International (TI) Nigeria would like to use this medium to express our total disappointment over the pardon granted to some corrupt politicians who were convicted by the Nigerian Judicial System. We are worried about the effect such ill-thought political pardon will have on the anti-corruption efforts, which constitutes the major agenda and commitment of the current administration.
“We find some of names recommended by the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy which is headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the federation questionable and the mere fact that citizens cannot get the full list of the over 150 persons pardoned shows a lack of transparency on the process.
“This trend of shielding Politically Exposed Persons from accounting for their actions is disturbing. Recall that in 2019, the Ministry of Justice filed a nolle prosequi to strike out high profile cases. An example of this was that of senator Danjuma Goje alongside a former Executive Chairman of Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr. Aliyu El-Nafaty in 2019.
“Coupled with corruption allegation in the judicial system, this pardon shows how bad Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts is and it comes barely a week after the United States government released its ‘2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria’ where it accused Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of focusing on low-and midlevel government officials.
“The pardon further confirms the poor rating of Nigeria on different global indexes and reports like the Corruption Perception Index and the Afro barometer corruption survey which have reported an increase in corruption in Nigeria.
“The pardon “shows how bad Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts is and it comes barely a week after the United States government released it’s ‘2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Nigeria’ where it accused Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of focusing on low-and midlevel government officials.
“Without doubt, the official pardon basically targeted at political settlement is indeed a major setback to our nation’s progress and achievements in the fight against corruption, while validating public perception of the administration’s reported disproportionate and lop-sided fight against corruption in the country.”
The statement added that, “This move goes further to demoralise our anti-corruption agencies who are already facing challenges prosecuting high profile cases of corruption. Some of these cases took over ten years to conclude and with lots of resources committed.
Meanwhile, the CSOs pointed that the pardon also failed the test of fairness and equity when they considered poor Nigerians who have been convicted imprisoned for lesser crimes.
“Hence, we call for an extension of such pardon to common Nigerians awaiting trial, forgotten, or abandoned in jails for trivial offences across the country.
“It is important to state that when convicted individuals who looted billions of Naira are released, there is no way that the international community will take Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts seriously, especially when attempts are being made to recover stolen assets outside the country”, it added.