Presidential pardon: SERAP wants article 175 of the Constitution to be amended

By Adedapo Adesanya

President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to review and withdraw the pardon granted to former Governors of Plateau and Taraba States, Mr. Joshua Dariye and Mr. Jolly respectively Nyame, who were imprisoned by the court. for corruption.

SERAP also urges him to “propose a constitutional amendment to the National Assembly to reform the provisions on the exercise of the prerogative of pardon in order to make the provisions more transparent, consistent and consistent with Nigeria’s international obligations on fight against corruption”.

Last week, the National Council of State approved the presidential pardon of Mr. Dariye, Mr. Nyame and 157 others serving prison sentences following the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Pardons.

In the letter signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said, “Impunity for corruption will continue as long as influential politicians escape justice for their crimes. The constitutional prerogative power of pardon must not be an instrument of impunity.

SERAP said: “The power of pardon shall be exercised in a manner consistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended]in particular the provisions relating to the oath of office of public officers, and article 15[5] which obliges your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuses of power.

He also said, “Indeed, the presidential power of pardon must be exercised in good faith and in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution on Fundamental Rights.”

According to SERAP, “We would like your government to clarify whether the pardon granted to Mr. Dariye and Mr. Nyame would entitle them to the return of stolen assets already confiscated from the government.”

The organization said: “Pardon also constitutes an interference in the exercise of judicial power. Because the pardon appears to be arbitrary, it undermines the authority and independence of the judiciary and access to justice for victims of corruption. »

The letter, a copy of which was sent to the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, read, inter alia, as follows: “The pardon is manifestly inconsistent and incompatible with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution and international obligations of the country, in particular under the United Nations Convention against Corruption”. Corruption.”

“The presidential pardon for corruption cases is contrary to the rule of law and to the public interest, as it undermines the principle of equality before the law. It will undermine public confidence in your government’s fight against corruption and in the justice system.

“SERAP is concerned that while the power of pardon is regularly exercised to protect influential politicians and politically exposed persons from justice and accountability, ordinary people who have committed minor crimes but without money or influential politicians to speak on their behalf, languish in prisons and are rarely considered for forgiveness.

“While there is no doubt that Section 175 of the Constitution confers wide discretion on the President of Nigeria to grant pardons, it does not stipulate the conditions under which such power is to be exercised.”

“However, when Section 15(5) of the Constitution is read in conjunction with the oath, it would appear to impose certain ethical conditions on you to ensure that the exercise of the discretionary power of the prerogative of pardon is not such that it will encourage corruption or the impunity of perpetrators.

“Mr. Dariye and Mr. Nyame should have been allowed to complete their prison terms. The exercise of presidential pardon in their case would seem unjust and undignified.

“The investigation and prosecution of the corruption cases involving the pardoned former governors Dariye and Nyame are said to have cost taxpayers over 300 million naira. The cases moved from the High Court to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

“Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution states that ‘the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuses of power’. Similarly, Article 26 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption requires your government to ensure “effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for grand corruption”.

“Article 26 of the convention complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that the sanctions must take into account the seriousness of the corruption offences.”

“SERAP notes that in your inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, you said, “We will tackle the pervasive corruption head-on. Nigerians will not regret entrusting us with national responsibility.

“However, the latest Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International shows Nigeria scored 24 points out of 100 and ranked 154 out of 180 countries surveyed, falling five places from the 2020 rank of 149. This places Nigeria is the second most corrupt country. in west Africa.

“The power of pardon, if properly exercised, can help protect citizens against possible miscarriages of justice.”

“SERAP therefore urges you to urgently withdraw the Presidential pardon granted to Mr. Dariye and Mr. Nyame, and to propose an amendment to Article 175 of the Nigerian Constitution which will make the exercise of the power of pardon more transparent and consistent and compatible with the country’s international obligations.

“Any proposed amendment should also empower citizens to challenge the legality of any arbitrary exercise of the prerogative power of pardon.”