The group said that if the north was to return to its past glory, the likes of Dariye must be released from prison to join in the peacebuilding process.
The development triggered heated reactions from Nigerians who condemned the group’s request.
Nathaniel Umar, a Facebook user, said:
"That's how we legitimise crime. Our leaders who don't have any pity for the masses steal from the masses and when justice is meted on them, we bring out our pity bags to beg for them. How do you want others to learn from them?"
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Another Facebook user, Itamakinde Akinyele, asked an important question that necessitated this report.
“Does he have the power to release him? If yes, on what ground?"
Does President Buhari have the power to pardon Dariye? Before answering the question, it’s important to briefly recall Dariye’s crime.
Joshua Dariye, former Plateau governor
Joshua Dariye governed Plateau state between 1997 and 2007. He was elected as the senator representing Plateau Central in the Nigerian Senate in 2015.
In 2018, a high court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja convicted Dariye and sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment on charges of criminal breach of trust and two years jail term for criminal misappropriation.
He was said to have looted N2 billion public funds during his time as Plateau governor.
The former governor, however, appealed the judgement and got the sentence reduced to 10 years.
Not satisfied with the verdict of the appeal court, Dariye took the case further to the Supreme Court.
However, the apex court in March 2021, affirmed the judgement of the appeal court. This means the former governor has to serve 10 years in jail.
Having served about three years out of the jail term, The Movement For A New Arewa now wants President Buhari to get him out of prison.
Does President Buhari have the power?
Section 175 of the Nigerian Constitution (1999) empowers the president to pardon convicts.
According to Section 175(1), the president may:
"(a) grant any person concerned with or convicted of any offence created by an Act of the National Assembly a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions;
(b) grant to any person a respite, either for an indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence;
(c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence; or
(d) remit the whole or any part of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offence or of any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the State on account of such an offence."
Nevertheless, Section 175 (2) noted that the president can only exercise the power after consultation with the Council of State.
Thus, the Nigerian president is constitutionally empowered to pardon convicts, including ex-Governor Dariye.
Flashback: Jonathan’s presidential pardon
To provide a brief historical reference, in 2013, former president Goodluck Jonathan pardoned ex-Bayelsa state governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha who “was convicted of stealing millions of dollars.”
Though the former president exercised his constitutional power, the pardon drew public outrage and remained “one of the most controversial decisions of the Jonathan administration.”
Reacting at the time, Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria's former anti-corruption chief said the pardon was "the final nail" in the coffin for fighting corruption in the country, BBC News reported at the time, citing Associated Press news agency.
In an earlier report by Legit.ng, ex-minister Bolaji Abdullahi claimed the presidential pardon granted to Alamieyeseigha turned the international community against the Jonathan administration.
Abdullahi claimed this and other misguided steps made Jonathan lost his goodwill in Nigeria.
Though the constitution gives Buhari the power to pardon Dariye, doing so will not only deal a major blow to efforts to curb corruption in Nigeria, it will also significantly damage the acclaimed integrity of the president and the fortunes of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) especially as the nation moves closer to the 2023 general elections.