…Approves pardon for 159 inmates
…Rejects pardon for ex-Bank PHB MD, Atuche
…Buhari to meet security chiefs Tuesday
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The Council of State, yesterday, approved April 2023 for the conduct of a fresh nationwide census.
The council, which directed that the exercise takes place immediately after the general elections in February, also approved pardon for 159 inmates, leaving out the former Bank PHB Managing Director, Francis Atuche, who was sentenced to 120 years imprisonment for stealing over N25 billion.
This is as even as the National Population Commission, NPC, the body saddled with the responsibility of conducting the census, said it would conduct pilot census in June, after political parties’ primary elections.
The last census was held in August 2006.
The council of state comprises former presidents/heads of state, serving and former Chief Justices of Nigeria, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, state governors, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and the FCT minister.
The meeting, which was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, had Generals Yakubu Gowon and Abdulsalam Abubakar as well as former President Goodluck Jonathan present.
While former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida attended virtually, Senate president, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, were absent due to engagements in the National Assembly.
Briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said the council approved 159 of 162 applications presented for consideration for prerogative of mercy for convicts and inmates in correctional centres.
He explained that one of the three persons rejected was sentenced to 120 years over stealing and had only served five months in prison.
Malami said the name of the convict was submitted as a result of his health challenge, as he was said to be having life threatening ailment, but the council rejected his inclusion for pardon because of the gravity of the offence and considering the fact that he had only spent five months in prison.
Though he did not mention the name of the convict, a source privy to the meeting said it was Francis Atuche, the former MD of Bank PHB.
The AGF said the next convict whose inclusion for presidential pardon was also rejected was convicted for offence of forgery and sentenced to 14 years in prison and had only spent one year and six months.
Malami said the third convict was sentenced for seven years for obtaining money by false pretence.
It’s going to be digital census —Isa-Kwarra
Also briefing journalists, Director-General of Nigeria Population Commission, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, said the commission would deploy high technology in conducting the census.
He said though census data was generated for planning, the data currently being used were mere projections and obsolete.
He said: “It is going to be a digital census. We are hoping to give Nigerians digital accurate census come March and April, 2023. Council has noted and we have been given the approval to continue with our activities.
“It is very crucial because I have highlighted that census is a very important exercise for the nation because through census, we generate the data that we use for policy making, planning and development by the three tiers of government and the private sector.
“If you are a private sector, you’re producing something, certainly, you need to know the population of an area, if you want to create a market there.
“So census data is very crucial, very important. The data we’ve been using are just projections, estimation, and are sort of obsolete. We need the actual census data to use for our planning.”
Buhari to meet security chiefs Tuesday
Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, on his part, said Buhari would meet security chiefs next Tuesday over worsening security situation, following recommendations and comments by Council of State.
Minister of Special Duties, George Akume, said the council approved the conferment of national honours award on 434 Nigerians who had distinguished themselves in the various field of endeavours.
Earlier, the meeting observed a minute silence in honour of former head of Interim government, Ernest Shonekan, who died on January 11, 2022.
This is the fourth time the President will preside over the meeting, with the first being held on October 21, 2015, and the second, September 7, 2016.
The third was held virtually in August 2020.
The Council of State is an organ of the Federal Government saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive on policy making matters.