By Ibrahim Ahmad Kala, LL.M
The arm of government that has the constitutional task or responsibility of executing government policies and actions is referred to as the “Executive” arm. It is commonly that governmental functionary, agency or institution which is responsible for the day to day running of government. Thus, the responsibility for good governance, security and order, rests with the executive.
The Executive has a lot of responsibilities that cover the whole spectrum of nationhood. Part of its responsibilities for proper governance and administration of the state, is the grant of “Prerogative of Mercy” or Pardon/Reprieve for convicted fellows.
Here the Chief Executive has the ‘power’ to use his discretion to uphold or set aside an earlier crucial ruling or judgment by a court of justice. This process may be initiated either by the executive head or upon advices of the judiciary to the executive on the exercise of such powers.
Thus, even when the courts have passed their verdicts in cases on individuals, and have found such individuals guilty, the Heads of Courts could make further recommendations that might affect the ultimate fate of the convicted to the Executive. Based on the recommendations of the judiciary, the Executive may look at the circumstances of the convicted fellow and either reduce the punishment to minimum or even pardon him completely.
Although, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the State Executive Governors and Local Government Chairmen are the embodiment of the executive arm in the federal setting of Nigeria, the Constitution exempts the Local Government Chairmen in the exercise of the powers of prerogative of mercy or pardon.
Recently, President Buhari was on record when he directed the Chief Justice of Nigeria to request state Chief Judges to identify and release deserving inmates in their respective states as part of effort to curtail the spread of Covid-19 in the country, and thereby decongesting the prison and ensure speedy trial of court cases.
The President called for special consideration to be paid to ages of the convicts, their health conditions, low risk offenders, etc. Also those with no legal basis to remain in custody, and inmates convicted of minor offences or without option of fine. Ditto for inmates with less than 3 years to serve, having served substantial terms of their offences that attract 5 years and above.
I commend the President for the exercise of the powers of prerogative of mercy at this crucial time of global crisis. In my humble view, most of the inmates in our facilities across the country do not deserve to be there, owing to the mis-governance that ravage the system which opens room for lust for wealth. This is apart from the glaring facts that our corpu juris is riddled with deformities particularly in the area of criminal trials, leading to flagrant abuse of the constitutional safeguards of liberty and due process of law.
These abuses have lead to serious breaches of the fundamental rights of citizens, making it impossible for a large number of Nigerians otherwise entitled to bail, to be released from police and prison custody, thereby worsening the condition of Nigeria’s appallingly overcrowded police and prison cells as observed several years ago by the Constitutional Rights Project (CRP) on the bail situation in Nigeria’s Judicial and Legal System.
Congratulations, Ibrahim Garba Wala (IG Wala).
Kala Esq. wrote this piece from Gombe and can be reached via email@example.com