Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alamieyeseigha’s pardon: Jonathan’s contempt for anti-corruption norms, By Clement Nwankwo

Published:

Former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha

Nigeria is part of the international community and has obligations to join the rest of the world to fight official corruption.

The Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, condemns the grant of presidential pardon to ex-Bayelsa Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

While section 175(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, gives the President unlimited powers to grant pardon to convicted persons, PLAC believes that this power must be exercised responsibly and in the national interest. In the immediate case of Mr. Alamieyeseigha, this power has been blatantly and arrogantly abused and raises serious questions about the President’s ability to govern in the larger Nigerian national interest.

The power of pardon appears to have been exercised for primordial and personal reasons by a president acting only to please a benefactor and kinsman, whose actions as governor brought Nigeria into national and international ridicule and odium. The pardon rubbishes Nigeria’s international treaty obligations and its standing in the comity of Nations. It should be noted that in addition to being convicted in Nigeria, Alamieyeseigha also has an international warrant of arrest issued by the U.K. authorities around the world for his arrest and extradition to face trial for charges that are still pending in the U.K. In other words, Alamieyeseigha is an international fugitive from justice. The Nigerian authorities needed to have taken into account that the case against Alamieyeseigha is an extra-territorial and internationalised issue exceeding just Nigeria’s legal territorial boundaries and cutting across the world and international jurisdictions.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption, UNCAC, imposes on Nigeria and the 165 state parties to it, a duty to cooperate and assist in apprehending and bringing to account all persons charged with corruption. The Convention further requires in Article 43 that domestic legal systems including Constitutions, must be consistent with the international requirement of countries working together and assisting each other in the investigations of, and proceedings in bringing to account all corrupt persons.

Nigeria is a part of the international community and has obligations to join the rest of the world to fight official corruption. As well, President Jonathan continues to mouth his government’s fight against corruption. The pardon of Alamieyeseigha is a major failing in this obligation. It shows a lack of moral courage and indeed portrays this government as encouraging corruption. Most Nigerians are of the view that corruption levels in this government are unprecedented. Only a few months ago, an unprecedented publication by the Malaysian High Commissioner to Nigeria had accused the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory of demanding bribes from a Malaysian investment project in Nigeria. This cross-border international allegation was never rebutted nor investigated at the Presidential level and this particular Minister continues to sit pretty in the Jonathan administration.

Other allegations too numerous to recite here including the oil subsidy scam report, by the National Assembly, which businessmen friends of this administration tried to discredit, as well as massive looting of pension funds whose main perpetrator remains unapprehended, continue to be a sore and rallying point for millions of critics who cite this government as unprecedentedly corrupt.

PLAC calls on President Jonathan to take the following immediate steps to address the anger of Nigerians over the high levels of corruption in Nigeria, sparked more recently by Alamieyeseigha’s pardon:

1. Extradite Chief D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha to the U.K. to face pending charges of corruption in the U.K. courts, in line with Nigeria’s international treaty obligations; as he is a fugitive from justice;

2. Implement National Assembly probe reports indicting his ministers and officials of government for corruption and abuse of office;

3. Sack ministers and officials indicted and/or cited for various acts of corruption;

4. Ensure that no public fund is expended in payment to Alamieyeseigha in consequence of the pardon issued;

5. Implement practical steps to convince Nigerians and the international community that this administration is genuinely willing and able to tackle the multifarious levels of corruption in Nigeria.

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