FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo was absent on Thursday at a meeting of the National Council of State that ratified the presidential pardon granted to a former governor of the defunct Bendel State, Ambrose Alli, and three others.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), presided over the virtual meeting from the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The council has as its members the President, who is the Chairman; the Vice-President, who is the Deputy Chairman; all living former Presidents, all living former Heads of the Government of the Federation; all former Chief Justices of Nigeria; the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; all the state governors and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
While former President Goodluck Jonathan joined Buhari to attend the meeting physically, former Head of the Interim National Government, Ernest Shonekan and three former military Heads of State, Yakubu Gowon, Abdusalami Abubakar and Ibrahim Babangida, attended virtually while Obasanjo was absent.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), disclosed the outcome of the meeting to State House correspondents.
Alli was said to have been convicted by a military tribunal for allegedly misappropriating N983,000 meant for a road project and sentenced to 100 years in prison.
According to Wikipedia, he was later freed when the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, paid a fine of N1m to the government.
Shortly after being released from prison, Alli died on his 60th birthday on September 22, 1989.
Others who got presidential pardon, according to Malami, are Col. Moses Effiong and Major E. J. Olarenwaju, who were convicted for their attempted coup to topple Babangida’s regime as well as Ajayi Babalola.
Malami said the ratification was based on a memorandum he presented to the council relating to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
He said, “The memo presented for consultation in line with one of the constitutional requirements and consideration of granting of pardon to 45 persons; two inmates for pardon, 39 inmates for clemency and four ex-convicts for presidential pardon.
“To further clarify on the prerogative of mercy, Mr President, with COVID-19 pandemic, directed the decongestion of our correctional centres across the country.
“As you are aware, more than 70 percent inmates in our correctional centres were awaiting trial across the country and a lot of considerations were put in place to ensure our correctional centres are decongested and the prerogative of mercy was one of such considerations by Mr President.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on his part said council approved the appointment of Isa Kwarra, as Chairman of the National Population Commission.
Speaking on the ratification of the presidential pardon granted late Ali, the Special Adviser to the Edo State Governor on Media and Communication Strategy, Crusoe Osagie, said that the development was in fulfilment of a promise made by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Osagie, in a statement, said the ratification by the Council was the climax of a task pursued by Obaseki to its logical conclusion, in recognition of the laudable work of the former governor of old Bendel State, so that he would not continue to be tarred by his conviction.
“The governor’s promise has been kept. We commend the National Council of State for the pardon,” Osagie said.