Alamieyeseigha causes US-Nigeria row

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Nigeria on Friday summoned a senior US envoy over criticisms by the embassy in Abuja of President Goodluck Jonathan’s state pardon of a key ally convicted of corruption.

The deputy chief of the US embassy was summoned “to protest a statement credited to the spokeswoman of the embassy, Deb MacLean, on the embassy’s Twitter account” on Friday, Nigeria’s foreign affairs ministry said.

It said the embassy had stated that it was ”deeply disappointed’’ over the pardon granted to the former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.

“The Embassy of the United States of America is also reported to have described the pardon as a setback in the fight against corruption” in Nigeria, it said.

The ministry said the comment was “undue interference and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of Nigeria.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also said Washington had warned the Nigerian government that it could have implications for US aid.

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“The United States government was deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian government,” Nuland said.

Asked about whether US aid to Nigeria could be at risk, she replied: “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’re continuing to look at what’s appropriate.”

In 2011, the US Agency for International Development spent some $230 million on aid programmes in Nigeria, the bulk of which went towards supporting health programmes, in particular preventing and treating HIV/AIDS.

Jonathan, who had served under Alamieyeseigha as Bayelsa’s deputy governor, pardoned him and seven others earlier this week, meaning the disgraced official could now run again for office.

Before his detention in Nigeria, Alamieyeseigha was arrested in Britain in 2005 on charges of laundering more than $3 million. But he fled back to Nigeria while on bail.