Human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Federal Government to extend Thursday’s presidential pardon granted to some top Nigerians, to people serving jail terms for petty offences.
He made the call at the first anniversary of late Afenifere’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin’s Lecture and Book Presentation.
Femi Falana said doing so for convicts without selectivity, and irrespective of class, would give a reflection of fairness and equality for all before the law.
It would be recalled that the Council of State granted presidential pardon to 159 convicts on Thursday.
Among the beneficiaries were former Governor of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye and ex-Governor Jolly Nyame of Taraba, who were both jailed for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion respectively.
Falana also advised that there should be no discrimination on the basis of belonging to the ruling class.
“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.
“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 are 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.
“This is because if the big thieves are being asked to go, then they must also extend the facility to other Nigerians,’’ Falana said.
Speaking on the passing of late Odumakin after a year, Falana described his loss as a monumental tragedy.
“Yinka remained a symbol of justice and we are gathered to celebrate his legacy. He was a man of honour, hope and consistency; a man who gave hope to the masses,’’ he added.
In his remarks, Sen. Ibikunle Amosun who is representing the Ogun Central Senatorial district, said the deceased was a friend who built bridges across ethnic and religious groups.
“His legacy will still remain and the memory of his demise still lingers. My heart goes to his widow, Joe for staying strong after his demise,’’ the former Ogun governor said.
Similarly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the General Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church and a presidential hopeful, said late Odumakin was a fearless person who did not labour in vain, adding that his memory would linger for ever.
Also, Dr Akinwunmi Adeshina, President, African Development Bank, said Odumakin was a respected rights activist and a democrat.
Leader of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Chief Gani Adams, thanked Odumakin’s widow for erecting a legacy for the deceased.
He noted that the Foundation would give room for generations to learn about what the deceased fought about.
In her remarks, the widow, Dr Joe Okei-Odumakin, said her husband devoted to true federalism.
She described her deceased husband as an encyclopaedia of positive activism.
The late Odumakin, died in April 2, 2021, after battling with respiratory problems, occasioned by COVID-19 complications.
Among the dignitaries at the event were the Osun State Deputy Governor, Mr Benedict Alabi, and the Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Mr Gbenga Omotosho.