T0P ST0RY (Francis Atuche) : How Council Of State Rejected Ex-Bank Chief Pardon Request
The pardon request sought by Francis Atuche, former Managing Director of Bank PHB, was rejected by the Council of State, according to sources.
Justice Lateefa Okunnu of an High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, had sentenced him to six years in prison for defrauding the bank of N25.7 billion.
At the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at Aso Rock on Wednesday, the council failed to consider Atuche’s request.
The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, said 159 convicted Nigerians were granted pardon based on the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy.
He said the requests of three convicts were rejected in order not to condone malfeasance.
He said one of the three people whose requests were turned down was sentenced over stealing and had only spent months in prison.
Malami said the name of the convict was submitted as a result of ill health because of life threatening ailment, but the council rejected his inclusion for pardon because of the gravity of the offence.
Although he didn’t mention the name, a source close to the meeting said it was Atuche.
Before his conviction, Atuche broke down in tears as he begged not to be sent to jail.
“All the time I was the MD of Bank PHB, I gave my all to the bank. Never at any material time did it occur to me that I would set up a scheme to defraud the bank.
“I plead for mercy, leniency, your kindness, and I plead that out of your kindness and generosity, you will not allow me to go to jail. I am sorry and remorseful,” he said.
Mr Atuche told the court that as a professional banker and chartered accountant, he certainly did not want to become a convict.
“I pray that God will place in your heart to be kind. I plead from the bottom of my heart. I’m extremely sorry; today will be a turning point in my life, I’m very sorry,” he said.
Mr Atuche’s counsel, Paul Nneoma, in his plea for mercy, described his client as a responsible family man who had never been convicted of any crime.
He appealed to the court to give Mr Atuche a fine instead of incarceration, in order to preserve his professional career.