Indications have emerged on Sunday that the United States is considering slamming visa restrictions on some Nigerian government officials in protest against the state pardon granted to a former Bayelsa State Governor Dieprieye Alameiyeiseigha, and an ex-Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Mr. Shettima Bulama.
This was made known by a diplomatic source who said that the US was angered by the Federal Government’s decision to summon its Deputy Chief of Mission for criticizing the pardon granted the two men.
“There are a lot of options open to Washington. For one, if this matter is not resolved, they can issue visa restrictions on government officials and then follow it up with other sanctions recognised within international law,” he said, even as he added that Nigeria had more to lose should the visa restrictions be imposed.
“Your country stands at a disadvantage because international opinion weighs heavily against it on this one(state pardon).Financial crime, especially money laundering, is closely linked to drug trade and drug trade is linked to terrorism; the whole world is affected by it.So, if any government is seen to be condoning financial crimes in any form, it stands the risk of international isolation.”
However, a Public Affairs Specialist at the US Embassy in Abuja, Sani Mohammed, said, “I am not aware of anything like that (visa restrictions).”
A source in the Presidency, who declined being named, admitted that proper consultations were not made before the decision to pardon Alamieyeseigha and Bulama were taken.
The source said, “It is unfortunate that proper consultations were not held before the decision was taken.
“Normally, when decisions like this which have the potential of attracting international interest are to be taken, a small team made up of lawyers from the Foreign Ministry and civil society is set up.The team carries out a research, considers the likely repercussions and prepares a well-coordinated response should situations like what we are witnessing today arise but this was not done.
“You cannot blame the US and other western countries who are likely to side with it(US) because, they provide funding for training and other logistics to assist Nigeria deal with corruption.
“To make matters worse, Alamieyeseigha has a money laundering case in a court in the United Kingdom; there is also this issue of him jumping bail. It’s really complicated.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has finally come out and thrown its weight behind the controversial decision to grant Alamieyeseigha and four other Nigerians pardons.
The National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, said that the beneficiaries have shown by their conduct over the years that they deserved the amnesty and asked Nigerians to stop harassing President Goodluck Jonathan for granting the pardon as it was done in good faith.
The statement released by the party on Sunday also accused opposition parties for inciting Nigerians against Jonathan, arguing that the idea of granting pardon falls within the powers of the President as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
“I cannot understand why our people are politicising the issue of amnesty so granted by Mr. President.
“The question is; do you grant pardon to the innocent? No! Amnesty is granted to those people he felt did some wrong and after some time, their behaviour and attitude showed that the wrong they did was just a slip.
“We all call on our God to grant us mercy on the wrongs we do to him minute by minute.
“The PDP did not see President Jonathan committing any breach of our laws by granting the pardon. He allowed the constitution to guide his steps.
“Moreover, he consulted widely before taking the step and don’t forget that the government announced the amnesty after a council meeting.
“We should stop harassing him because those he had granted pardon are responsible citizens of Nigeria who, in spite of the allegations against them ,have continued to assist the Federal Government, the PDP and their respective states to overcome certain challenges,” the statement read.
However, the opposition party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) called the action a “national embarrassment”.
It insisted that the anger of Nigerians both home and abroad was justified because Alamieyeseigha and Shettima were “convicted for obscene corruptive tendencies and nauseous rapacity.”