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Buhari courts history, pardons Ambrose Alli, Enahoro, others

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Ambrose Ali                                                                                                                             Anthony Enahoro

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Thirty-Seven years after he overthrew the elected governor of the defunct Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Mofolorunsho Alli, in a coup and ordered his trial over alleged corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday rewrote his history as he granted the deceased a posthumous state pardon.

The pardon was also extended to Chief Anthony Enahoro, Lt.-Col. Moses Effiong (rtd), Major E.J. Olanrewaju and Ajayi Olusola Babalola.
Some 2,600 inmates of correctional centres nationwide were also included in the amnesty.

Some analysts might view the pardon, especially of Alli and Enahoro, as a distortion of history, an insult to people of the southern region and a distraction. Some could also accuse the president of attempting to score a cheap political point.

Reacting, a former presidential aspirant, Omoyele Sowore said: “We should be fighting differently. Good people are losing out while bad political actors are getting rewarded for their bad behaviours! Imagine the regime of Buhari ‘pardoning’ Ambrose Alli, a democratically elected governor he illegally overthrew in 1983?”

Ambrose Alli was a Nigerian medical professor who served as the first civilian governor of the defunct Bendel State between 1979 and 1983. After the military government of the then Major-General Muhammadu Buhari took power in 1983, the late Ambrose Alli was sentenced to 100 years in prison by a military tribunal for allegedly misappropriating N983,000 in funds for a road project. He was reportedly freed later when the Esama of Benin, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, paid a fine to the government.

Chief Anthony Eromosele Enahoro was one of Nigeria’s foremost anti-colonial and pro-democracy activists. In 1953, he became the first to move the motion for Nigeria’s independence. He has been regarded by academics and many Nigerians as the father of the Nigeria State.

Enahoro was detained alongside other Action Group members during the 1962 crisis in the old Western region, having been accused of treason during the Awolowo alleged coup trial.

He escaped via Ghana to the United Kingdom in 1963. Nigeria requested Enahoro’s extradition under the 1881 Fugitive Offenders Act, preventing his application for political asylum. He was extradited from the U.K. and imprisoned for treason. The Military Government released him in 1966.

The Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbeshola, who announced the amnesty in Abuja, said 70 of the inmates were from the Kuje maximum custodial centre. The tally includes 41 federal prisoners and 29 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) inmates. He said 2,600 prisoners had been give the presidential reprieve across the federation.

Earlier, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), while kicking off the 2020 presidential pardon and clemency to convicts and inmates at the facility, had stated that the exercise was part of measures by the Federal Government to decongest the prisons in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained that the entire process began in August 2018 when the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy (PACPM) was inaugurated to advise the Nigerian leader on pardoning deserving inmates and ex-convicts in line with Section 175 of the1999 Constitution (as amended).

To arrive at the list, the minister said the committee adopted interviews, observations, consultations and relevant documents from every correctional centre in the country.

Owing to the urgency of the time, Malami added that Buhari had requested appropriate authorities to visit all facilities in the states to identify and release deserving inmates.

The minister encouraged the payment of fines for convicts of lesser offences, warning beneficiaries to desist henceforth from crimes. The AGF also urged communities to reintegrate the pardoned with love to make them more useful to the society.He stressed the need to identify new ways of reducing the number of inmates in the custodial centres to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Aregbesola, who represented the president at the event, said the welfare of the citizens remained a top priority of government, including the decongestion of the prisons. He harped on reorientation from the punitive concept of imprisonment to correction and reformation where prisoners would be given an opportunity to reflect, regret, repent, be transformed, be renewed and energised to begin a new and productive life as honourable and law-abiding members of the society.

According to the former Osun State governor, the 250 facilities that currently house over 74,000 inmates nationwide are grossly inadequate, promising that the Buhari administration would address the challenge.

The Nigerian Correctional Service, he added, was making serious efforts to prevent the introduction of the virus in these centres through improved hygiene, suspension of social visits and extra-screening of new inmates, among others.


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