The Senior Special Assistant for Public Affairs to President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe on Wednesday confirmed media reports that the Council of States has granted state pardon to the former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Okupe explained why it is disrespectful to query Tuesday’s pardon granted the disgraced former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha and seven others.
According to him, “Its about time we begin to respect constituted authority.”
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He said though the decision might not sit well with some Nigerians, there is no reason to whip up needless sentiments over a decision reached at the highest level of governance in the country and in accordance with the country’s Constitution.
The presidential aide, who spoke earlier Wednesday on a live programme, Sunrise Daily on Channels Television, wondered why Nigerian have taken to the social media critiquing the listing of Alamieyeseigha as one of the beneficiaries of the presidential pardon.
He insisted that the convicted ex governor has suffered enough having gone to jail and forfeited some of the stolen property to the state.
He said: “The relationship between President Jonathan and Alamieyeseigha is not something that is hidden neither is it something that is immoral. It was a pardon that was granted by the highest institution in the country. It is not every decision that a parent takes that is palatable to the children. But, later, you find out that you have taken the right decision as a parent. ”
“The Council is empowered to grant the pardon. And why is all this noise about Alamieyeseigha and the pardon? Is it because it is him? Is it because he is a Niger Deltan? Is it because of his closeness to Jonathan? Even in our laws, though I am not a lawyer, there are certain offences that you commit and after ten years, you receive presidential pardon. There is a Yoruba saying that says: “you asked a thief to run, he runs. You asked him to drop what he has stolen, he did. What else do you want from him?”
Speaking further, Okupe noted that: “The National Council of State, comprising all former Heads of State, all retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, all serving Governors of the federation of Nigeria and including the leadership of the a National Assembly and President Goodluck Jonathan himself met yesterday (Tuesday).
“They deliberated on several issues and, at that Council, approved pardon for many Nigerians including, some of them, post-humorously. They include the late Major-General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, late General Adisa, Gen. Oladipo Diya, Major Fadipe, D. S. P. Alamieyeseigha and a couple of others. I think there are eight of them.
“Some others that were listed were stepped down for various reasons as given by the Council. It was not just that the approval was just granted like that. This is the highest decision-making council in the country. Eight Nigerians were granted pardon and I have listed about six of them including the former governor of Bayelsa State.”
In 2005, Alamieyesigha was arrested at the Heathrow Airport in London on suspicion of money laundering. At that time, he was the governor of Bayelsa State in Nigeria’s south-south region and boss of President Jonathan who served as his deputy.
The arrest of Former Governor Alamieyesigha followed investigations by the Proceeds of Corruption Unit of the London Metropolitan Police. Investigators later found an amount equivalent to about 1 million dollars in his London home.
He was granted bail after the arrest on the condition that he would remain in the UK but 3 months later and despite the bail restrictions, the former governor managed to flee the United Kingdom and return to Nigeria.
It was believed that he intended to resume office, after assuming that he was safe from prosecution because of the constitutional immunity he enjoyed as Governor.
A few days after his return however, he was served impeachment notices outlining 8 impeachable offences against him. A month later in Dec 2005, Two thirds majority of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly voted to impeach Governor Alamieyeseigha.
This effectively removed him from office and also removed his domestic immunity paving the way for his arrest and prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), led then by Nuhu Ribadu.
In July 2007, he eventually pleaded guilty to six counts of making false declaration of assets before Justice Mohammed Shuaibu of a federal high court, Lagos in what later came to be known as a plea bargain arrangement. In sentencing him to 2years, the court also ordered a forfeiture of some assets, including N1 billion shares fraudulently obtained with funds of the government of Bayelsa State.
However, President Goodluck Jonathan has now bestowed a state pardon on his former boss for these offences.