The Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has described the state pardon granted a former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, by President Goodluck Jonathan, as an act of impunity and a symbol of corrupt mentality.
Also,the Nigerian Bar Association on Wednesday described the pardon as a bad signal in the anti-corruption campaign.
Soyinka, on Wednesday, lent his voice to those of civil society groups, international community and individuals who had stridently condemned the President’s action.
He spoke in Lagos during a programme ushering in the Lagos Black Heritage Festival.
Referring to a statement made by the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Media, Dr. Reuben Abati, who had, on a TV programme, described those who are criticising Jonathan over the matter as suffering from “sophisticated ignorance”, Soyinka said he did not mind being called such a name for bearing his mind on the state pardon.
“On the state pardon granted the former governor, I want to join the bandwagon of the ignorant persons. I am happy to be counted among them. For me, this kind of impunity is not unconnected to the controversy, which has been surrounding the N4bn allocation being sought by the First Lady Mission. It is part of the same corrupt mentality,” he said.
The renowned writer added that it was also disappointing that some ministers had given contradictory interpretations to the object of the pardon.
Soyinka said it was not right for Jonathan to lump Alamieyeseigha’s case with those of the other people granted pardon alongside him.
According to him, the cases of other ex-convicts were largely political, as evident in the antics of the late Sanni Abacha junta that implicated them in a controversial coup.
The Nobel laureate said, “What is going on right now gives the picture of a government that is floundering and justifying the unjustifiable. It amounts to encouragement of corruption. The felon is wanted by the United States Government. We have a case of an officer of the law – a governor – who went to another country and broke the law of the nation. He jumped bail.
“I believe that such a person does not deserve a state pardon. So, I have joined the league of the ignorant persons condemning the act. I criticise and deplore President Jonathan for granting pardon to the former governor.”
Reacting to the development after inaugurating the web-portal of the NBA in Abuja, NBA President, Mr. Okey Wali, SAN, said the presidential pardon had sent a bad signal in the war on corruption.
But he also noted that Jonathan acted within his constitutional powers.
“It is no doubt a moral issue; it is a bad signal in the fight against corruption.”
Noting that the President’s action was constitutional, in line with the provisions of section 175 of the 1999 Constitution, Wali added, “Nigerians have made their feelings known.”
He also reacted to plans by the Federal Government to finally remove the subsidy on petroleum products.
Jonathan had, at the Nigerian Economic Summit in Lagos on Wednesday, said the Federal Government would still remove fuel subsidy.
The NBA has, however, asked the Federal Government to fulfill its promise to implement far-reaching palliative measures before the final removal of fuel subsidy in the country.
The NBA President urged the Federal Government to make good its promise to implement some palliative measures in order to alleviate the hardship imposed on Nigerians as a result of the hike in the price of petroleum products.
Wali said, “We believe that the government will fulfill its promise to Nigerians.
“The NBA still has not seen much of the promise but we strongly believe that they will keep to their word by putting all the necessary infrastructure in place before taking any further action on fuel subsidy.”
Wali aso said the NBA was committed to enforcing discipline in the legal profession.
Features of the web portal include the full list of all the lawyers called to the Bar, as registered in the Supreme Court from the pre-Independence days till date.
It also contains the profiles of over 25,000 active lawyers, who have carried out their verification exercise, as directed by the NBA in 2011.