Mr Norrison Quakers SAN is a member, National Committee on Reform of Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria, whose litigation ability also earned him the position of Secretary , National Working Committee on the Review of Nigeria Law of Evidence.
He is also serving as a member of Negotiation and Conflict Management Group and Member Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. The Senior Advocate is also Consultant, Abolition of Death penalty in Nigeria, Reform of the rules of Court and Court Martial proceedings in Nigeria.
In this Interview, he spoke on the fate of Anti-graft agencies in the country, following the state pardon granted to former Bayelsa State Governor, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, whom a Nigeria court tried and convicted for financial crimes. Excerpts:
WHAT is your position on the state pardon granted to former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and six others?
The position of the law is very clear on this. Section 175 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is very clear, particular sub section 1 of section175. The President has a singular prerogative of granting presidential pardon to any convict. And the operating word there is “the President may” so it is discretionary.
Now when the President is upright morally, he could consider a number of factors where an application of that magnitude comes before him through the prerogative of mercy board committee that is responsible to filter and make recommendations to him.
Is it possible for the President to reject the names recommended to him for the exercise of prerogative of mercy?
When the President looks at the recommendations, before he presents it to a National Council of States, he could decide otherwise and say that these names are not comfortable because of numbers of moral issues involved. He could decide on his own not to take such names to the National Council of State. When the President now takes it to the National Council of State, the constitution in that sub-section 3 now says “the President shall”.
So whichever way that you look at it, everything boils down to the President. He is the final determiner of whatever he presents to the National Council of State. First, (1) says “the President may”, (3) now says “having presented the National Council of State, “the President shall implement”. In other words, the President is bound to implement and enforce whatever the National Council of State has agreed.
From a legal point of view, how would you then describe the President’s action?
For me, it is not a legal issue. Legally, the President is correct. Morally, it is questionable. So it is more of a moral issue than a legal issue. You know, certain things can be legally correct but morally wrong. With due respect to the Presidenct, the way and manner that he seem to be going about the justification, for me, it is like almost insulting the intelligence of Nigerians. And that for me is wrong.
And I like what one journalist said, that it is of cynical motive for one to inject into the list of those to be pardoned. People have been convicted for betrayal of public trust. People have stolen, now what example are they giving to the Nigeria public? What example are you giving to International community? It is no longer about Nigeria; it is now a global issue.
The Federal Government has said that the state pardon won’t weaken Anti-graft war, what is your perception on that?
Alamieyeseigha absconded from the United Kingdom, when he was granted bail, because there was a trial pending against him. He came into Nigeria and a Nigeria court tried him and convicted him, now the President has granted him pardon. What statement is the President making to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, whose responsibility it is to address economic and financial crimes? What is the President saying to the Nigeria public?