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Nigeria dismisses threat of diplomatic row with U.S

19 March 2013, 13:03

Abuja - The Nigerian government has dismissed the prospect of a diplomatic wrangling with the United States and other western nations over a controversial state pardon granted ex-corruption convicts last week.

Foreign Minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, said on Monday that the amnesty granted by President Goodluck Jonathan will not strain bilateral relations between Nigeria and other countries, less than a day after America’s richest man, Bill Gates, pulled out from a planned anti-polio campaign in Nigeria.

The pardon of former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Shettima Bulama-both jailed for huge fraud- has infuriated many Nigerians, and has drawn scathing criticisms from the U.S, which has warned of sanctions.

The U.S. said it viewed the decision as a “setback in the fight against corruption”.

Nigerian authorities rejected that assertion and immediately summoned the U.S Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy in Abuja, on Friday, in protest. The foreign ministry described the U.S. remarks as “undue interference and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of Nigeria’’.

The federal government on Monday played down the prospects of drawing severe consequences over its decision to free Messrs Alamieyeseigha and Bulama.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ashiru, gave the assurance while addressing newsmen on the sideline of the inauguration of newly-appointed Foreign Service Officers.

Ashiru said arising concern over the presidential decision, will be resolved, and denied the Jonathan administration was abdicating an already shaky anti-corruption campaign of his government.

“The misunderstanding would be resolved,’’ the minister said. “I can assure you that we will resolve the misunderstanding; the fight against corruption is ongoing and I believe we all have a part to play, the government and the people.’’

The minister had earlier charged the newly-appointed foreign affairs officers to have “a profound understanding and appreciation of Nigeria’s national interests’’ as they undertook tasks ahead of them.

He also urged the officers to promote and protect the interests of the country at all times.

He advised the officers to take advantage of the five-day induction course organized by the ministry, stressing that it would enable them to compete favourably globally.



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