The presidential pardon granted a former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and seven others may make Nigeria lose development aid from the United States of America.
Alamieyeseigha was found guilty and convicted of corruption, but he was pardoned last Tuesday by the National Council of State after a meeting in Abuja.
The US government has therefore expressed its disappointment and surprise that those convicted of corruption could be pardoned by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, as it saw the move as a setback for Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade.
The Hill, a US newspaper quoted the State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland as saying, “The United States government is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian government.
“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.”
Nuland when asked if the US could cut off aid due to this development said it was possible, adding that the pardon put a dent on the collaborative efforts between Nigeria and the US in fight against corruption.
“We have made it 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, but we’re continuing to look at what’s appropriate.”
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan’s aides have continued to defend the government’s action saying it was in order.
Speaking on a breakfast show ‘Sunrise Daily’ Saturday, on a local TV, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, said commentators’ views on the pardon smacked of ignorance.
“There has been a lot of ignorance about what has happened, and sophisticated ignorance. But I respect the fact that part of our responsibility is to explain to people.
“The first thing to note is what a state pardon is not. One, a state pardon does not mean that an individual was not convicted at a particular time; in fact state pardon means that you have been convicted for a particular crime and you have been punished.”
The comments coming from the presidency may well worsen matters, as the present administration has been criticised in the past as corruption-tolerant.
Reports have said the US ambassador has been invited by the President in a bid to discussing and clarifying issues on the pardon.
If the US decides to stop aids to Nigeria, the country will be losing millions of dollars meant for development. Nigeria is one of the biggest recipients of US aid in Africa. Last year the US gave Nigeria about $226m in development aid and is expected to spend $600m this year.
In all, Nigeria was slated to have received $660.5 million in the US 2012 budget, more than any other sub-Saharan country except Ethiopia.