Okorocha’s ‘amnesty’ to wanted persons splits lawmakers

Members of the house of representatives were divided on Tuesday over the amnesty reportedly granted by Rochas Okorocha, governor of Imo state, to some criminal suspects declared wanted by the Rivers state government.

Last week, Nyesom Wike, governor of Rivers, had said: “That amnesty offered by Governor Okorocha cannot cover Rivers state. These criminals are still wanted for their crimes against Rivers State and her people.”

At plenary on Wednesday, some lawmakers condemned the alleged amnesty while others said the governor was acting within his constitutional powers.

The deliberations followed a motion sponsored by 12 lawmakers, most of who are from Rivers.

Presenting the motion, Chinda Ogundu, the lead sponsor, said the reported amnesty was granted “in concert with some highly placed politicians for selfish reasons”.

He described it as “unimaginable, preposterous and part of a wider plan to re-integrate and arm the criminal elements in the society ahead of the 2019 elections”.

Ogundu said: “Those that were declared wanted are all from Rivers state and thus, it is strange that a state governor within the federation of Nigeria could purportedly grant amnesty to persons who are at present on the wanted list of the security council of a sister state.”

The 12 lawmakers said the federal government and security agencies should not recognise the amnesty and that the said criminals should be arrested.

But some of the lawmakers argued that if security agencies in a state have the power to arrest an individual for a crime committed in another state, a governor should also have the power to grant amnesty to criminals for crimes committed in another state.

Zakare Mohammed, a lawmaker from Kwara state, however, urged the lawmakers to first ascertain whether some of the alleged crimes committed by the individuals declared wanted were carried out in Imo state or not.

Oguma Johnson, from Ondo state, said Okorocha did no wrong in granting the amnesty.

According to him, “the only way to stop a governor form granting an amnesty is to amend the part of the constitution that gives him such powers to grant amnesty”.

He said similar situations were also obtainable in other parts of the world including the US.

Bashir Babale, from Kano state, called on his colleagues to bear in mind that the issue involved human lives and as such, should be treated without prejudice.

He said rather than grant the prayers, the house should mandate relevant committees to investigate the matter and report back to it.

Adopting his recommendation, Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the house, set up an ad-hoc committee comprising the chairmen of committees on justice; ethics and privileges as well as national security and public safety.

The committee was asked to look into the matter so as to clarify the various issues involved and report back within one week.