Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has inaugurated the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
The committee is to be chaired by Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
The four-year tenured committee is to assist President Muhammadu Buhari in discharging of his constitutional responsibility of not only granting pardon to deserving prisoners and ex-convicts and re-integrating them into the society, but also to work towards decongesting the prisons nationwide.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, represented at the brief ceremony by Malami, said the reconstitution of the committee which was approved by President Buhari, in June, and that it would go a long way in bringing about a drastic reduction in the population of prisoners in the nation’s prison system that has become a blot on the nation’s criminal justice system.
He said, “The responsibility of the committee is sensitive and enormous. The purpose for its constitution and its guiding principles must be completely adhered to do as not to elude the process.
“The Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy is an administrative committee established to assist the president discharge of his responsibility of granting pardon to deserving in mates and ex-convicts.”
The committee’s terms of reference are statutory as contained in Section 175 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution which states that:
(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.
(2) The powers of the President under subsection (1) of this section shall be exercised by him after consultation with the Council of State.
(3) The President, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, may exercise his powers under subsection (1) of this section in relation to persons concerned with offences against the army, naval or air-force law or convicted or sentenced by a court-martial.
The SGF said the inauguration kick-starts the processes leading to a nationwide prison visits and consequent recommendation of eligible ex-convicts and convicts for presidential pardon.
Other members of the committee are a permanent secretary from the Office of the SGF, representative of the Inspector-General of Police, representative of the Nigerian Prison Service, representative of the National Human Rights Commission, representative of Jama’atu Nasril Islam, representative of Christian Association of Nigeria and four eminent Nigerians.
In his remarks, AIG of Police, Lawal Shehu, representing the IG said, “The members of the committee will not disappoint the president because we are going to take the assignment seriously. We will ensure that the rule of law applies.
“The caliber of those on the committee are well abreast with the laws of the land and therefore we are going to deliver as expected. Mr. President will not find any of us wanting.”
The committee later went into a closed door for its inaugural meeting.