The Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, on Thursday said following the granting of presidential pardon to former Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha by President Goodluck Jonathan, the former Bayelsa State governor can contest election in 2015 if he so desires.
Speaking during a press conference in Abuja, Dr Okupe said, “If a man is granted presidential pardon, all his rights and privileges are returned to him. He can sell groundnut, he can do business, he can go into politics, he can go abroad, he can do whatever he likes.”
Explaining further, Okupe said the former governor was jailed in 2006 and going by the provision of the Nigerian constitution, he would have been able to contest for any post 10 years after serving his jail term, even without the pardon.
“Whether President Jonathan grants him pardon or not, by 2015, he will be fully qualify and eligible to run for election in 2016. I mean, if it is done now, what difference does it make? People are talking to me about timing. This is something that in the next two or three years will really expire and he will be a free man,” Okupe said.
The presidential aide said Section 175 of the 1999 Constitution empowered the president, in consultation with the Council of State, to grant presidential pardon to whosoever he chose, as he urged members of the civil societies to be reasonable on the issue.
He said: “Nevertheless, the former Bayelsa governor, whose pardon appears to be drawing all the flaks, has been tried, found guilty and adequately punished.”
Constitutional Lawyer Itse Sagay has also described the presidential pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and six others, by the National Council of State as constitutional.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the Council of State reserved the right to pardon repentant Nigerians, provided they wrote petitions to that effect.
Sagay, who is also a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said that there was no limit either to the number of times presidential pardon could be granted or the number of people to be granted presidential pardon at any point in time.
Speaking on comments by some Nigerians who were questioning the inclusion of Alamieyeseigha in the presidential pardon, Sagay said there was nothing wrong with the action. He said Alamieyeseigha had served the necessary punishment for the offences he committed and reserved the right to be granted pardon.
He called on Nigerians who insisted on the former governor’s removal from the list to desist from being vindictive.
Sagay said that there was no rationale behind such comments, noting that Alamieyeseigha sought for pardon after serving the necessary punishment meted out to him and deserved to be pardoned.
“ I don’t know why people are vindictive. This man was convicted, went to prison, served his prison term, forfeited quite a lot of his assets and he’s been living a fairly good life, contributing to the polity in a positive way. Why are we pursuing him still and why this vindictiveness among Nigerians. The man has gone to prison for corruption, lost his position as governor and has paid the full price for corruption.”