Rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN) has urged the Federal Government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to extend presidential pardon to people serving terms for petty offences.
Falana said this at the 1st anniversary of Afenifere’s late spokesman, Yinka Odumakin’s Lecture and Book Presentation on Friday in Ikeja.
The rights crusader said doing so for convicts without selectivity, and irrespective of class, would give a reflection of equality and fairness for all before the law.
This comes after the Council of State granted a presidential pardon to 159 convicts on Thursday. Among them were the former governor of Plateau, Joshua Dariye and ex-Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba State, who were both jailed for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion, respectively.
Falana said, “All petty thieves in our prisons should be released. Under Section 17 of the 1999 Constitution, there shall be equality and equal rights for all citizens.
“Section 42 of the Constitution says there shall be no discrimination on the basis of class and gender, so you cannot take out a few people on the basis that they belong to a category or section of the society.
“I can assure you that if the government did not release others, I am going to call on lawyers whose clients are left in custody to come to court and challenge the discriminatory treatment on their clients.”
He added, “Just two weeks ago, a Nigerian was jailed for stealing N1,000 in Abuja; the accused pleaded with the judge that he had no food but the judge jailed him for six months.
“When we’re talking of justice and fair play, if you want to pardon some set of people, then you must also extend presidential pardon to petty thieves in the prisons.”
According to Falana, this is because if the big thieves are being told to go, then they must also extend the same to other Nigerians.