By Olasunkanmi Akoni

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has asked the court to declare illegal, and incompatible with the oath of office the recent pardon granted by President Muhammedu Buhari to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame who are serving jail terms for corruption.

Dariye and Nyame were recently pardoned alongside 157 others convicted for various offences. The two men were investigated, prosecuted and convicted for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion respectively from their state treasuries, while they were in office between 1999 and 2007.

Joined in the suit as Defendant is Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

In the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, at the Federal High Court, Lagos, last Friday, the organization “is asking the court to determine whether the exercise of the power of prerogative of mercy to grant pardon to Dariye and Nyame is compatible with the public interest, the oath of office, and constitutional duty to combat corruption.”

SERAP, also asked the court for “a declaration that the exercise of the power of prerogative of mercy to grant pardon to Dariye and Nyame is compatible with the public interest, the oath of office, and constitutional duty to combat corruption.”

It also asked the court for “an order setting aside the pardon granted to Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame in the public interest, and for the sake of the integrity, well-being and prosperity of Nigeria, and the country’s international obligations.”

In the suit, SERAP stressed that: “If the presidential pardon is not set aside, impunity for corruption will increase, and many influential politicians will continue to escape justice for their alleged crimes.

“It is in the interest of justice to set aside the pardon for Dariye and Nyame. Presidential pardon for grand corruption cases is incompatible with the rule of law, as it undermines equality before the law.”

According to SERAP, “the pardon power ought not to be exercised to shield influential politicians and politically exposed persons from justice and accountability.”

The organization also asked the court for “an order directing and mandating President Buhari and future presidents to consider the public interest, the requirements of oath of office, and constitutional duty to combat corruption in any future exercise of the pardon power.”

SERAP maintained that, “the presidential pardon power must be exercised in good faith, and in line with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution on fundamental rights.”

The suit read in part: “The pardon power, if properly exercised, can help to protect citizens against possible miscarriage of justice.

“Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) provides that ‘The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.

“Article 26 of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party requires the government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption,” among others.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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