The deteriorating security condition in the country was the focus of the first meeting of the National Council of State (NCS) this year, which held yesterday in Abuja, with the governors taking turns to brief the gathering on the situation in their respective states.
The meeting, presided by President Muhammadu Buhari, and attended by past Heads of State and presidents, granted state pardon to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame of Plateau and Taraba states, respectively, who were serving jail terms for corruption.
The two former governors were among 159 convicts pardoned by the council at the meeting held at the Council Chambers of the State House, Abuja.
But the council rejected the application for prerogative of mercy for a former Managing Director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, who was convicted for stealing and jailed last year. Two other applications were also disallowed.
Buhari would follow up the discussions at the NCS gathering with a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) to review the current security situation in the country. The security council comprises Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), the three service chiefs, Inspector General of Police, and others from the military brass.
The NCS approved a national population census for April 2023, after the general election slated for February and March 2023.
Briefing newsmen at the end of the NCS meeting, Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State disclosed that the president would meet security chiefs on Tuesday over the worsening security situation following recommendations and comments by members of the council of state.
Badaru said, “The issue of security was brought before the council and it was discussed. Suggestions were made by the state governments and some of the members of the council, and President Muhammadu Buhari promised to call a security meeting to discuss the issues raised on Tuesday so that we will have enhanced security in the country.
“The president was more concerned also about food security and the need for a secure country where farmers would go back to land and continue to produce and it is observed that we are by and large food secured. And, in fact, we are feeding the neighbouring countries also because of the worldwide cost in food around the world and most of the neighbouring countries find Nigerian food cheaper.
“So, there is need for enhanced production, so that you will not only meet the Nigerian demand, but also the neighbouring countries’ demand and the president promised to discuss this with the service chiefs on Tuesday. So that adequate security arrangement will continue to flow based on the advice he received today from the various governors and also from members of the council.”
Speaking also, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said the council approved 159 out of 162 applications for prerogative of mercy for convicts and inmates in correctional centres across the country. Malami said the recommendation came after the council received the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
The minister stated, “In the exercise of the powers on the granting of pardon, precisely on the 28th day of August 2018, the president put in place a committee known as the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, which was saddled with the responsibility of visiting the country’s correctional facilities and making recommendations to the president on the exercise of his power of mercy and compassion, by way of either granting pardon to those that have been convicted, clemency, or some other form of concessions by way of reduction in sentence and term.
“It was in exercise such duties and responsibility, in line with the terms of the Committee on Prerogative of Mercy, that we presented the report to the president and the requirement of the law on the exercise of that mercy and pardon (is that we) should seek the advice of the Council of State.
“In line with that, a memo was presented by the president this afternoon to the council through which the report of the committee was presented to council for its advice. The committee made a submission of 162 people presented to the president for such consideration.
“Twenty-six of the inmates are recommended for presidential pardon, 85 of surviving ex-convicts were recommended for presidential pardon, one deceased person was recommended for posthumous presidential pardon, 27 inmates were recommended for presidential clemency, 13 inmates were recommended for a review of their sentences or prison terms, 10 inmates were presented for a reduced sentence from death to life imprisonment. In total, 162 convicts were presented for the president’s consideration for pardon and mercy.”
Malami said the council rejected proposal to grant pardon to one of the prisoners sentenced to 120 years for stealing over N25 billion. He said the pardon was sought due a life threatening illness.
The second inmate was convicted for forgery and sentenced to 14 years in jail, and he had stayed in prison for a year and six months, while the third person, who obtained money by false pretence, was sentenced for seven years, he said.
Malami stressed that the council was not satisfied with reasons adduced for the pardon of the three convicts and, therefore, rejected them.
On his part, Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume, said the council approved the conferment of National Honours Award on 434 Nigerians, who distinguished themselves in their various field of endeavour.
The council gave approval for a national headcount to hold in April 2023 after the general election. This would be preceded by a Pilot Census to be conducted by National Population Commission (NPC) in June 2022 after political parties’ primary elections.
NPC Director General, Nasir Isa-Kwarra, said the commission would deploy technology in the conduct of the national census. Isa-Kwarra said through census, data was generated for planning, noting that the data currently being used are mere projections and obsolete.
According to him, “It is very crucial because I have highlighted that the census is a very important exercise for the nation. Through census we generate the data that we use for policy making, for planning, for development, by the three tiers of government, and the private sector, they all need this.
“If you are in private sector, you’re producing something, certainly, you need to know the population of an area if you want to create a market there.
“So census data is very crucial, very important. Because, the data we’ve been using are just projections, estimation and are sort of obsolete, we need the actual census data to use for our planning.”
At the commencement of the meeting, the council observed a minute silence in honour of former Head of Interim National Government (ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, who died on January 11, 2022.
This was the fourth time Buhari would chair the NCS meeting in seven years, with the first held on October 21, 2015, the second on September 7, 2016, and the third held virtually in August 2020.
The National Council of State is an organ of the federal government saddled with the responsibility of advising the executive on policy-making matters.
Members of the council include the president, vice president, past presidents, Senate President, House of Representatives Speaker, Chief Justice of Nigeria, serving and past.
Others are Attorney General of the Federation, all state governors, and Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Those who attended the meeting were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, and Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Former Heads of State physically in attendance were General Yakubu Gowon, General Abdusalami Abubakar, and former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Others attended the meeting virtually from their various locations.
State governors in attendance included Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Atiku Bagudu(Kebbi), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), and Nasir El Rufai (Kaduna). Other governors attended virtually.
Culled from THISDAY