The US says the decision is “a setback in the fight against corruption.”/ Premium Times

United States has threatened to punish Nigeria over President Jonathan’s action that granted state pardon to Alamieyeseigha and some ex-convicts.

The issue has sparked a diplomatic standoff between the two countries with Nigeria accusing the Americans of “meddlesomeness”.

The U.S. had through its official twitter handle @USEmbassyAbuja on Friday condemned Mr. Jonathan’s action, saying, “the #USG (United States Government) is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by GON (Government of Nigeria).”

It added, “We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption.”

A State Department official has now said the American government is not taking the matter lightly and might apply sanction as appropriate.

Speaking at the U.S. Department of State’s daily press briefing in Washington D.C. late Friday, Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the development in Nigeria might jeorpardize the governance projects America is executing in Nigeria.

The U.S. is the world’s top donor. In 2012, it spent about $226 million on health and governance programmes in Nigeria. And about $600million has been requested for 2013, according to U.S. government data.

In response to a question on whether aid to Nigeria might be cut, Ms Nuland said, “We see this as a setback for the fight against corruption, and also for our ability to play the strong role we’ve played in supporting rule of law and legal institution-building in Nigeria, which is very important for the future of the country obviously.”

She added, “We have made clear to the Nigerians that this puts a question mark on the kinds of work that we’ve been trying to do with them.

“We haven’t yet taken the kinds of steps that you’re suggesting Matt (the reporter who asked the question), but we’re continuing to look at what’s appropriate.”

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s foreign ministry has summoned a top U.S. diplomat to explain why its embassy posted critical comments on Twitter over a presidential pardon given to the Nigerians convicted on corruption charges.

The Nigerian officials filed an urgent request to speak to the U.S. deputy chief of mission over what it described as “meddlesomeness.”

In a statement Friday, the ministry claimed the pardon granted Messrs Alamieyeseigha and Bulama is entirely consistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution.

The ministry said it hoped “that the Embassy of the United States of America would henceforth desist from making unwarranted comments on Nigeria’s internal affairs which are capable of undermining the friendly relations that exist between them.”

President Jonathan and the National Council of State had granted ex- Bayelsa Governor, Mr. Alamieyeseigha and ex-boss of the defunct Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama pardon in a move condemned by civil society and other interest groups.

Both men had been convicted for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Mr. Alamieyeseigha, who chose Mr. Jonathan as his running mate for the Bayelsa Governorship election in 1999, pleaded guilty to financial misappropriation and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Some members of the Council of States had told PREMIUM TIMES that it was clear from the president’s mien and actions at the meeting that the pardon was targeted at Mr. Alamieyeseigha with the others only used as smokescreen.

The ex-Bayelsa Governor’s name was the first on the list of the pardon beneficiaries read by the president to attendees at the meeting including three former Nigerian heads of state.

FROM Premium Times

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