Contrary to wide spread speculations, former state governors convicted for money laundering and corruption did not benefit from the presidential amnesty granted to 2,600 inmates nationwide because they did not meet the requirements.
The former governors: Senator Orji Kalu and Joshua Dariye; former governor of Taraba State, Jolly Nyame; and a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh are all still challenging their convictions.
While Kalu, a serving All Progressives Congress senator, was convicted of N7.1 billion money laundering and jailed for 12 years in 2019, Dariye, who was a former senator representing Plateau central district, was jailed for 16 years for N1.1 billion fraud in 2018.
Nyame, who was prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was convicted and jailed for 14 years for diverting N1.64 billion during his tenure as governor of Taraba State between 1999 and 2007.
Metuh is serving a seven-year jail term for illegally receiving N400 million from the office of the national security adviser.
He was sentenced by Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in February this year.
According to the spokesman of the Nigeria Correctional Service, Chuks Njoku, they did not meet some of the criteria stipulated by the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy
The committee is created by the constitution to advise the President on inmates and ex-convicts deserving pardon.
The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola had said those considered for pardon include inmates who are 60 years and above and those suffering from ill health likely to end in death.
Aregbesola had also stated that those who also qualified for consideration are imates serving at least three years with less than six months left, those with mental issues, as well as those with options of fine not exceeding N50,000.
While the minister did not mention those to be freed, he said the amnesty did not apply to inmates sentenced for violent extreme offences such as terrorism, kidnapping, armed banditry, rape, human trafficking, and culpable homicide.
Njoku in his reaction noted that the former governors were convicted of corruption and related offences, adding that by virtue of this, they were not eligible for pardon or clemency.
He dismissed reports that some of the high-profile inmates could be released on account of their age, clarifying that the dates of birth being bandied about did not tally with the NCS’ official birth records of the ex-governors.
Njoku said, “We have our criteria and they are not qualified (for pardon). They don’t fall under any of the categories. If you were convicted, you must have served some years and you must be of good character and must have shown remorse.
“It is not just about age; there are many of them who are old but they are not qualified. So, for anyone to benefit, they must have served for some time and their crime must not be a capital offence.
“They (ex-governors) are not qualified because they just came (into the custodial centre) and some of them are still on appeal,” he maintained.