Nigeria Summons U.S. Diplomats for Criticizing Pardon

Nigeria summoned a senior U.S. diplomat to protest against comments criticizing President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to pardon his former boss who was convicted of money laundering.

James McAnulty, the U.S. deputy chief of mission to Africa’s largest oil producer, was called to a meeting yesterday by the Foreign Ministry to explain the embassy’s remarks on Twitter that the pardon is a “setback in the fight against corruption.”

The U.S. is “meddling in the internal affairs of our country,” Ogbole Ahmedu Ode, a spokesman for the ministry, said by phone today from the capital, Abuja. “It was quite outlandish.”

The U.S. government “is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials,” the U.S. Embassy in Abuja said in a posting on Twitter yesterday. Deborah MacLean, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission in Abuja, confirmed the comments were made by the embassy and that officials met with the Nigerian government yesterday. She declined to give further details when called on her mobile phone today.

Jonathan gave pardons on March 12 to eight former convicts, including Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, the ex-governor of oil-producing Bayelsa state. Jonathan was his 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 most populous nation of more than 160 million people, was ranked 139 out of 174 countries in the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-graft group.

Alamieyeseigha skipped bail in London in November 2005 and returned to Nigeria where he was arrested. He spent two years in jail and was released in July 2007 after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

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