The Council of State, headed by the President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the pardon of former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye and ex-Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, two of the very few public office holders who had been jailed since the war against corruption started in Nigeria.
Both men, who were among 159 convicts pardoned, were imprisoned for stealing N1.16bn and N1.6bn respectively.
Dariye and Nyame were convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory High Court in 2018. Dariye, who was governor from 1999 to 2007, was jailed for laundering public funds to the tune of N1.162bn and was sentenced to 14 years in prison by Justice Banjoko who has since been elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Dariye’s prison term was later reduced to 10 years by the Court of Appeal in Abuja while his conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
While Rev Nyame, who was governor of Taraba State from 1999 to 2007, he was jailed 12 years for stealing N1.6bn from the state’s treasury, a judgment which was also upheld by the Supreme Court.
Many Nigerians see their release as politically motivated – to help the ruling All Progressives Congress do well in the 2023 general election, especially win Taraba State, where Nyame still has huge support.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, later attempted to justify their release to journalists on Thursday after the meeting of Council of Stated. He said the council approved 159 out of 162 applications presented for consideration for the prerogative of mercy for convicts and inmates in correctional facilities nationwide.
According to him, the council rejected a proposal to grant pardon to one of the prisoners sentenced to 120 years for theft of over N25bn. The pardon, he said, was sought on health grounds.
Mr. Malami did not disclose the identity of the prisoner in question, but it is understood that he was talking about a former Managing Director of Platinum Habib Bank, Francis Atuche.