Pardons and Commutations: The Nigerian Experiences (Note 1)

Justin C. ILEKA


The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) distinctly separated the powers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria among the three arms of the government. It vested the legislative powers of the Federation in the National assembly (Note 3) the executive powers of the Federation in the President; (Note 4) and the judicial powers of the Federation in the Courts established for the Federation. (Note 5) There are some meeting points, however, in the exercise of these powers. For instance, the executive, in line with the provisions of the Constitution, may intervene in criminal matters during, after, or while awaiting adjudication by the Courts. The exercise of the executive powers of mercy popularly known in Nigeria as “the Prerogative of Mercy” (Note 6) is a typical example of the interface among the separated powers of government. I explored in this paper the challenges, abuses and prospects which arise in the exercise of the Constitutional Prerogative of Mercy in the Nigerian context. Most of my illustrations were drawn from the Presidential exercise of the two main forms of these powers: pardon and commutations. To position Nigeria to make the optimal use of these enormous powers of mercy arrogated to the executive, I made some preliminary recommendations in this paper. They include expanding the scope of the beneficiaries of the executive powers of mercy; as well as making the exercise of the powers transparent, accessible to the masses, and even justiciable.

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