In apparent response to calls for amnesty for the deadly Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, stated that government was prepared to reintegrate and rehabilitate those who took arms against the state provided they lay down their arms.
The President who renewed earlier calls on those who chose to live on the fringes of the law to retrace their steps as government is prepared to work with them to facilitate their reintegration and rehabilitation, however, warned that they should also be prepared to face the wrath of the state should they fail to lay down their arms.
Jonathan spoke while inaugurating the re-constituted Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy, PACPM, chaired by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, who was represented by a member of the committee, Mr Tunji Abayomi. He said: “We intend to always provide a window of opportunity for those who have seen the folly in anti social behaviors to retrace their steps. I wish to renew my calls to those that chose to live on the fringes of the law to retrace their steps and we are prepared to work with you to facilitate your reintegration and rehabilitation. If you undermine the state, be prepared to face the full wrath of the law.
“Our review of processes and institutional reforms are indeed designed to strengthen and realign all the instruments and agencies of crime prevention and punishment. My administration will not rest on its oars until the spirit of the law runs across the land. I promise to deliver sudden justice for criminal elements.”
He warned that “today our character or reputation as caring and forgiving people are under severe test by frequent acts of mindless brigandage fanaticism which has resulted in the killing and maiming of hundreds of our citizens including those engaged in the noble acts of serving their fatherland.
“We now confront evil of nation that is unacceptable to all religions and our culture and our sense of humanity but I know that this nation is resilient and the people are strong and refuse to buy into acts of destruction which agents of violence are promoting. We shall fight and defeat the evil.”
He, therefore, tasked the committee in making recommendation to assess every case strictly on its own merit, stressing: “We will not exercise the prerogative of mercy on a quota basis or in defence to the consideration of religion, geography, ethnicity or politics.”
“Let me seize this opportunity to therefore reassure the nation that I have initiated a very rapid and robust process to enhance the capacity of our security forces to protect life and property. Even as I mentioned security scare, I am confident in the ability of our security agencies to overcome the present one. we are resolute in our charge to security agencies to go after all promoters of terror and other anti social activities and bring them to book”, he said.
The President noted that “although our justice administration process is adversarial and doesn’t provide for parole or suspended sentences as in some other jurisdictions, I strongly believe that the cycle of justice should include forgiveness and relief for those that are manifestly repentant”.
“The pervasive assumption is that the Nigerian penal system is punitive and that every encounter with the law may be permanent exit from decent society. We need to place emphasis on our penal system being more correctional, we need to create opportunities for convicted persons either after completing their terms or before they do so considering the circumstances to be reintegrated back into the society and be rehabilitated. Perhaps we can achieve a lot more by making the justice system a bit more redemptive. In doing this, we also need to pay particular attention to human rights especially where there is ample evidence of abuse”.
He explained that “the prerogative of mercy which is enshrined in our constitution, allows the president and the state governors to grant re-convicted person state pardon. This pardon can be either conditional or otherwise but it could be in the form of respite from the execution or punishment imposed to a less severe sanction. This is a very serious responsibility that need to be carried out with due diligence and solemnity”.
Besides, he said “at times, this decision involves matters of life or death of citizens, it calls for the highest level of decorum and ethics and utmost fidelity to good consciences and public good. It is perhaps for this reason that the constitution provides for this very important Presidential Advisory Committee to assist the president for the exercise of prerogative of mercy”.
The role of the committee, Jonathan pointed out “most assume a significance now that our nation is in transformation and as we tackle new security challenges in accordance with due process and the rule of law. Your work must go beyond the routine decongestion of prisons and redressing the miscarriage of justice. I need you to be at the front-line of cultural transformation and value reorientation. I need to point out, however, for the avoidance of doubt that our emphasis is mainly prerogative.
This will not in any way detract us from our duty to protect the life and property of all citizens and safeguard the Nigerian state against any form of violation”.
According to him, “I also want to reassure those out people who have lost their relatives to these crimes that we shall bring the perpetrators to book. We share in your pain, we stand united as we confront the actions of misguided few who seems determined to violate the core values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence”, he said.
While congratulating those who have been appointed in this committee with a charge to quickly settle down to work to clear the backlog of cases in the interest of justice and above all, our determination to be fair to all within the ambit of the law, Jonathan disclosed that the former committee was constituted in 2005 and its four years tenure ended in 2009. The new one had not been constituted since then.