U.S. Criticizes Nigerian President’s Pardon of Former Boss

The U.S. criticized Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to pardon his former boss who was convicted of money laundering, saying it undermines the fight against corruption.

The U.S. government “is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials,” the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, the capital, said today on its Twitter account. “We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption.”

Jonathan handed pardons on March 12 to eight former convicts, including Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the ex-governor of oil-producing Bayelsa state under whom he served as a deputy from 1999 to 2005. The state assembly impeached Alamieyeseigha in December 2005 after he was charged with laundering 1.8 million pounds ($2.7 million) in the U.K. The pardon allows Alamieyeseigha to return to political life.

Presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe said March 13 Alamieyeseigha had served his time in jail, returned embezzled funds to the state and was “extremely remorseful.”

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, was ranked 139 out of 174 countries in the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-graft group.

“This decision undermines anti-corruption efforts in Nigeria and encourages impunity,” Transparency International said yesterday in a statement.

Alamieyeseigha skipped bail in London in November 2005 and returned to Nigeria where he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to corruption charges in July 2007, the same month he was released, having spent his two-year sentence in jail after his arrest.

Alamieyeseigha has strong influence on militants who attacked the oil industry in the Niger River delta until many accepted an amnesty and disarmed in 2009, Okupe told reporters yesterday in Abuja.

He has been “assisting this government to ensure that the boys are kept quiet,” Okupe said.

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