Officials of Nigeria’s anti-graft agencies, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices & Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) have accused President Muhammadu Buhari of sabotaging the fight against corruption by granting presidential pardon to former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame and former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye who were both convicted and jailed for stealing state funds.
The officials of the two commissions, who pleaded anonymity made the accusations in separate interviews.
They condemned the pardon saying their morale and commitment to work have been affected by it.
One EFCC official said, “We used to say our problem in our work against corruption is the judiciary but we see a lack of political will by the president.
“Anti-graft officers would now merely attend work to earn their salaries without passion.
“People will be taunting us now that a president can pardon a big thief whom we seriously try to prosecute.”
The official lamented that the “prosecutions of the two former governors took up to 10 years and their eventual convictions were a high point of their work.”
“Staff are angrier because the two former governors were tried for over a decade and got convicted. They are saying that the corrupt public servants even made appeals but their conviction was affirmed by Nigeria’s apex court.
“Some members of staff are querying their moral ground to go pursue other cases of corruption,” the official said.
Another official said he doubts Mr Buhari reviewed the implication of his actions on operatives of the anti-graft agencies.
An anti-corruption investigator said, “People risked their lives and friendships to investigate the ex-governors. They refused to be compromised. Now it appears all the efforts were in vain.”
Some non-governmental organisations such as the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), and Transparency International (TI) in a statement signed by CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Musa also condemned the pardon granted to the corrupt politicians convicted by the Nigerian courts.
The civil society organisations are worried about what they called “the effect such ill-thought political pardon will have on the anti-corruption efforts, which constitutes the major agenda and commitment of the current administration”.
The statement read, “We sincerely hope the processes and objectives of such Presidential pardon will be re-examined and made transparent to avoid bad precedence, especially as the nation moves towards a political transition in the 2023 general elections.”
A human rights lawyer and activist, Mike Ozekhome in a statement also said, “The official pardon is a major setback to Nigeria’s fight against corruption.”
Mr Ozekhome argued that “pardoning the corrupt politicians has only validated the public perception of Mr Buhari’s administration’s lop-sided corruption fight.
“This move goes further to demoralize our anti-corruption agencies who are already facing challenges prosecuting high profile cases of corruption.
“Some of these cases took over ten years to conclude and with lots of resources committed.
“In one case, for example, a witness had to be flown from the United Kingdom to Nigeria at different times with funds from taxpayers. Furthermore, operatives of anti-corruption agencies had to put their lives at risk even to the point of facing physical attacks while these cases were on and suddenly, we read that these individuals have been pardoned.”
However, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in a statement, on Sunday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to use his “good offices to urgently review and withdraw the pardon granted to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame who are serving jail terms for corruption.”
The group in a letter it wrote to President Buhari said, “Presidential pardon for corruption cases is inconsistent with the rule of law, and the public interest, as it undermines the principle of equality before the law. It will undermine public confidence in your government’s fight against corruption, and the justice system.”
Mr Dariye, 64, and Mr Nyame, 66, were convicted for mismanaging and stealing public funds while they were governors of their states.
Despite serving their jail terms, President Buhari on Thursday, at the National Council of State’s meeting held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, granted pardon to the two former governors, as well as 157 others, on the grounds of health and age.