The Secretary to Government of the Federation has been asked to release details of the meeting.
A Civil Society Group has filed a Freedom of Information request for recordings of the meeting of the Council of States where former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former Bank of the North chief, Shettima Bulama, both convicted for huge fraud, were pardoned.
The presidential amnesty for Messrs Alamieyeseigha and Bulama, alongside five former military officers accused of coup plotting, has set off a whirlwind of fury against the Goodluck Jonathan administration, and has continued to arouse public debates nearly two weeks after.
Many Nigerians have launched stinging attacks on President Jonathan, accusing him of instigating the pardon solely to clear his former political benefactor, Mr. Alamieyeseigha, while using the other names as cover. Mr. Alamieyeseigha was convicted and jailed in 2006 for laundering several billions of naira of Bayelsa state funds.
Amid a turbulent backlash that greeted the decision, some governors and other members of the National Council of States, who attended the meeting, have sought to distance themselves, claiming the subject of pardon was not open for discussion.
SAY NO CAMPAIGN, an anti-graft campaign organization led by Ezenwa Nwagwu and Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said it is requesting the Secretary to Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, to release details of the meeting.
“This request is premised on the need for Nigerians to know how this ridiculous decision was reached especially against the backdrop of denials by some members of the National Council of State that the pardons were not discussed,” the group said. “If this assertion is true, it raises serious question on the legal validity of this decision and effectively annuls these pardons.”
The letter was served on Mr. Anyim’s office on Thursday, March 21. Under the FOI Act, the office is required to act within seven days, failure which the group may decide to seek legal action.
Quite a few federal offices have responded to FOI requests since the law came into force in 2011, by providing required information.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Anyim’s office, which oversaw a federal government initiative to enlighten and encourage government offices and officials to respect the FOI law, will provide the required minutes.
“We are hoping that the SGF will expeditiously attend to this request in the interest of rule of law and transparency,” SAY NO CAMPAIGN said, pledging a commitment to “see a reversal of the presidential pardon.”
Lawyers have warned that Mr. Alamieyeseigha, under an Appeal Court interpretation of similar pardon, may be entitled to billions of naira in compensation in lieu of several of his property confiscated and sold by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which investigated and prosecuted the former governor.