COVID-19 and the prerogative of mercy



The exercise of state pardon is unarguably an exclusive opinion or choice of Mr President as part of his veto power to tie and untie any subject matter so considered by him, especially a crime or treasonable act against constituted authority. State pardon has been granted by different governments or regimes on different occasions for different reasons. In Britain, the British monarch officially has the power based on the royal prerogatives of the British monarch to grant royal pardon to convicted person.
Prerogative of mercy or executive clemency is said to mean the power of the president or a governor to pardon a criminal or commute a criminal sentence. According to A.V. Dicey, ‘it is the residue of discretionary or arbitrary authority, which at any given time is legally left in the hands of the Crown’. Should executive clemency be used as a political tool or cordage for accessing political gains and fame of the ruling party or any administration in power is another kettle of fish.
The recent state pardoning granted by President Muhammadu Buhari raises some salient questions begging for answers as some of the beneficiaries of his executive clemency could only hold their freedom thanksgiving in their various long-forgotten gravesites. It appears somewhat sardonic and lugubrious to have somebody like late Professor Ambrose Ali, the former democratic governor of the then Bendel state and one of Nigeria’s foremost nationalists, Chief Anthony Enahoro, who were convicted by the military junta in power ironically headed by General Mohammadu Buhari in 1983 without giving enough room for a fair hearing, is now the authority saddled with prerogative power to grant them posthumous pardons after 36 years.


According to Solomon A.M. Ekwenze, “Pardon has never been crystallised into rigid rules. Rather, its function has been to break rules. It has been the safety valve by which harsh, unjust, or unpopular results of formal rules could be corrected”. Whose government in 1983 that incarcerated a man who was adjudged to be an honest leader who never had time to buy himself a pair of shoes because of his busy schedules in the government officials could be regarded as harsh, unjust and unpopular that needed to be corrected in the case of Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Ali? Obviously, in a sane clime where justice, rule of law and equity form the fulcrum of the existence of a society, the Buhari government shouldn’t be garbed with a chip of probity and integrity to grant Professor Ambrose Ali any pardon because it was his government that brutally shattered his righteous vision for the people of the defunct Bendel state. His achievement as governor then cannot be overemphasized as till today, no government in Edo and Delta states has the degree of commitment, love, and selflessness demonstrated by late Professor Ambrose Ali.
A whopping amount of money running into billions of naira has so far been spent unaccounted for in the name of fighting the novel Covid-19 in Nigeria today, why in the end, nobody would be held accountable other than the usual media trial by the toothless bulldog called the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission). But Professor Ambrose Ali was sentenced to 100 years in prison by a military tribunal for allegedly misappropriating N983, 000 funds for a road project. This was a man who served the government transparently and later retired to his family house without accumulating wealth to himself.


To the family of Professor Ambrose Ali, pardoning their father, grandfather, brother and uncle makes no sense to them because they never in one breath believed that Ambrose Ali was guilty of the charges he was handed by the Buhari led government Military Tribunal that gave no opportunity for him to be represented by his attorney at kangaroo hearing of the case. Nonetheless, it’s on record that he (Professor Ambrose Ali) established over 600 new secondary schools, and abolished secondary school fees. Apart from the establishment of a university, he also established various colleges of education in Ekiadolor near Benin City, Agbor, Warri, Ozoro and Agbor, and three polytechnics, with a college of agriculture and fishery proposed for Agenebode. He also established four teachers training colleges to supply staff to the new schools, as well as several other higher educational institutions. In 1981 he laid the foundation of the Bendel State University, which is now named Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Other reforms included abolishing charges for services and drugs at state-owned hospitals and eliminating the flat-rate tax. His administration carried out massive construction of roads to open up the rural areas. In the housing sector, he built low-cost housing estates in Ugbowo, Ikpoba Hill in Benin City, and Bendel Estates in Warri. As governor, he always wore sandals, joking that he was so busy working in Government House that he never had time to buy shoes for himself.Granting him posthumous pardon after 31 years of his demise at these turbulent and virus ravaging moments, as one of those to be released from prison because of the fight against coronavirus is the worst discretion this government has ever put in use. Why was he not pardoned with the likes Babagana Kingibe and MKO Abiola? Why was he not pardoned on an Independence Day Celebration, October 1, or Democracy Day, May 29? Conditioning the prerogative of mercy so granted to Covid-19 scare is laughable, ridiculous bellicose, belligerent and abasing.
Innocent writes from Warri, Delta state.

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