The diplomatic row between Nigeria and the United States of America over the presidential pardon granted the former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha may worsen as there are indications that aid to Nigeria may be cut off by the American government.
Nigeria is one of the biggest recipients of US aid in Africa, receiving about $226m in development aid last year and is expected to receive $600m this year, with only Ethiopia receiving more in aid in the sub-Saharan region.
Alamieyeseigha was found guilty and convicted of corruption before he was pardoned on Tuesday by the National Council of State after a meeting in Abuja.
The US stated that it was disappointed that those convicted of corruption could be pardoned by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, saying the move was a setback for Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade.
A spokesperson for the State Department, Victoria Nuland, was quoted 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.”
In her response to the question of if the US would cut off aid, Nuland said it was possible, adding that the pardon put a dent on the collaborative efforts between Nigeria and the US in fight against corruption.
She said, “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, but we’re continuing to look at what’s appropriate.”
The US embassy in Abuja had also condemned the pardon via its Twitter handle @USEmbassy saying it was “deeply disappointed.”
“We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption,” the embassy said.
Nigeria is a top oil provider to the United States and a crucial ally in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.
Meanwhile, aides of President Goodluck Jonathan have continued to defend the government’s action saying it was in order.
On Saturday, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, appeared on a breakfast television show on Channels Television, Sunrise Daily, saying that commentators’ views on the pardon smacked of ignorance.
Abati said, “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.”