Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to “rescind without further delay the alleged state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, and former head, Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama, as the said pardon is a fundamental breach of the country’s constitution and international anti-corruption obligations.”
The organization threatened “national and international legal actions to challenge this fragrant abdication of legal and moral responsibility to combat corruption, which can only ensure that high ranking corrupt officials profit from their crime.”
Alamieyeseigha was detained in London on charges of money laundering while he was governor in September 2005. He escaped from the UK in December 2005. He, however, pleaded guilty in court to a six-count charge in July 2007, and was sentenced to two years in prison on each count charge. Bulama was investigated and later prosecuted for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
In a statement signed by SERAP Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni and released to the media today, the organization said, “This shows without doubt that this government lacks the necessary political will to tackle high-level official corruption and sends a wrong message that corruption pays and those who loot and stash the country’s wealth and resources in foreign banks will enjoy absolute impunity. This culture of impunity is responsible for the pervasive and systemic corruption and the associated violations of the basic economic and social rights of millions of Nigerians.”
“The granting of pardon also amounts to an arbitrary exercise of powers, which can only continue to weaken the rule of law, deny justice to the victims of corruption, and entrench a culture of impunity of the country’s leaders,” the organization also said.
The organization also said “This kind of action can only continue to cast doubt on the seriousness of the Nigerian government to deal with high level corruption and impunity of perpetrators. Impunity arises and thrives when there is a lack of accountability among high ranking government officials, whether past or present. A widespread culture of impunity under which leaders’ abuses receive state pardon will continue to leave victims without effective remedies.”
According to the organization, “Under the Constitution, the president and other high ranking state officials have the obligation to prevent the exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community and to eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power. Similarly, human rights law requires that those responsible for human rights violations, include acts of corruption, will be judged and that the victim will obtain a remedy for damage suffered. This right to a remedy is one of the basic pillars of the rule of law and democratic society.”
“Clearly, the granting of state pardon to those who engage in corrupt acts is incompatible and inconsistent with these core values and principles,” the organization argued.
“SERAP is therefore calling on the Nigerian government to immediately rescind the supposed state pardon granted corrupt officials; and ensure the full recover any stolen money and use this to address the gross under-funding and inadequate management of the health services; the deterioration of infrastructures in the educational system.”
“SERAP has consistently expressed concern that incidents of high level corruption and impunity of perpetrators is deepening poverty in the country, contributing to the systematic violations of internationally recognised social and economic rights of the citizens, including the rights to food, health, and education.”