Reacting to the criticisms that trailed the move, the presidency said the pardon was neither a political move nor a retirement from the fight against corruption.
In a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu on Wednesday, April 20, 2021, the presidency said Buhari would have been perceived as insensitive and cruel if he had ignored compelling cases recommended for pardon.
The presidency also made further justifications for the move in the statement titled ‘Dariye, Nyame pardon in line with the constitution, will not derail anti-corruption war by President Buhari.’
The statement reads in part, “The Presidency wishes to throw light on the recent note presented to the Council of State, on the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, as a culmination of a process begun by the convicts and others concerned in line with the Constitution.
The presidency said section 175 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) enjoins the President to exercise his constitutional powers “to grant any person concerned with or convicted of any offense created by an Act of the National Assembly a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions; to grant respite, either for an indefinite or a specified period of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; substitute a less severe form of punishment imposed on that person for such an offence or remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on the person for such an offence or of penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the state on account of such an offence.”
Shehu said in August 2018, the PACPM was set up by the Federal Government with the responsibility to assist the President in the discharge of his constitutional responsibility of granting pardon/clemency to convicts or ex-convicts in deserving cases.
According to him, the Committee filed its first report in March 2020 and reconvened on Thursday, September 2021 to attend to the myriad of pending applications for presidential pardon and clemency from Nigerians across the country.
“These accrued cases followed the established process of applying for pardon or clemency first to the Correctional Service (formerly Nigerian Prison Service), which must certify claims made, be they of life-threatening ill-health, (as in the cases of Governors Dariye, Nyame; John Uloh, Umar Bamalli, Sa’adu Alanamu, Charles Ihenatu, Akinwumi Ajayi and tens of others making the approved list of 159; or such cases arising from remorse and good conduct or plainly on the basis of compassion among other stated criteria.
“The PACPM members, under the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, followed up the recommendations with a visit to selected Correctional Centers in several states of the Federation to ‘critically appraise and identify potential cases of convicts and ex-convicts before recommending them for presidential pardon/clemency and reduced sentences,” the presidency explained.
He added that “of the 412 inmates interviewed, 162 were recommended to the Council of State by the President in the exercise of his powers, pursuant to Section 175 (2) which requires that he should carry out this function after being “advised by the Council.
“The presentation to the Council of States meeting last week, attended by former Presidents, a former Chief Justice and 36 States and the FCT along the lines of its statutory membership was a culmination of a rigorous process, regulated and guided by the law which was not, in any way designed to achieve a political purpose.
“While it is natural that the cases of the ex-governors-two among many- would excite political analysts, coming at a time when elections are in the air, the President would at the same time have come across as insensitive and cruel to most people were he to have ignored very compelling cases recommended for pardon made to him because someone is a former Governor. Even Governors have the right to be treated fairly under the law.
Shehu explained that President Buhari assured the nation that the presidential pardon was not intended to achieve a political end or send a revisionist message on the relentless war against corruption.