By NBF News

Religious leaders and a civil society group in Lagos yesterday condemned former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, over his comments on the reception held for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Chief Olabode George.

Obasanjo, in an interview with journalists in Abeokuta last Friday, shortly after a public lecture to mark his 74th anniversary, said he was tricked to attend the reception organised for George, describing it as a celebration of criminality, as he roundly condemned the released politician.

While condemning Obasanjo's criticism in a statement yesterday, a Lagos-based group, Human Rights and Justice Vanguard (HRJV), said: 'What Obasanjo did was a very wrong and harsh rehabilitation of Bode George into the society.'

According to the leader of the group, Pastor Richard Kolapo, once a person has served a prison term, 'he must be integrated and accepted into the society. Why are leaders of the society behaving like this? You don't break the laws and regulations that you have made. God doesn't want the death of a sinner but repentance.' The Chief Imam of Dairy Farm Muslim Community Mosque, Agege, Alhaji Dawood Adelodun, also condemned Obasanjo's utterances, explaining that in Islam 'we don't discriminate against anyone who has served prison term and has been reformed.'

Citing passages from the Holy Quran about how Prophet Yusuf went to prison and came back, Adelodun said, 'it can happen to anybody. You have to pray for him and learn from him; you're not to isolate him. We should thank God for him and rejoice with him that he is out.'

George and five others were arraigned on August 8, 2008 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 163-count charge, concerning his activities as board chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority. He was later convicted in October 2009 by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja and jailed for two years alongside others on a seven-count charge of abuse of office and six months each on another 27-count charge of disobedience to constituted authority.

A rousing reception was held for George by a committee of friends as he regained freedom penultimate Saturday. Pastor Kolapo warned Obasanjo's associates to be wary of the former president, pointing out that all those who had been too close to him politically ended up having their political image dented.