There was indication on Sunday that United States might slam visa restrictions on some Nigerian government officials in protest against the state pardon granted a former Bayelsa State Governor Dieprieye Alameiyeiseigha, and an ex-Managing Director of the defunct Bank of the North, Mr. Shettima Bulama.
A diplomatic source, said the US was miffed by the Federal Government’s decision to summon its Deputy Head of Mission for flaying the reprieve granted the two men.
He said, “There are a lot of options open to Washington. For one, if this matter is not resolved, they can issue visa restrictions on government officials and then follow it up with other sanctions recognised within international law.”
The source said that Nigeria currently stands at a disadvantage should the visa restrictions be imposed.
He said, “Your country stands at a disadvantage because international opinion weighs heavily against it on this one (state pardon).
“Financial crime, especially money laundering, is closely linked to drug trade and drug trade is linked to terrorism; the whole world is affected by it.
“So, if any government is seen to be condoning financial crimes in any form, it stands the risk of international isolation.”
When contacted, a Public Affairs Specialist at the US Embassy in Abuja, Sani Mohammed, said, “ I am not aware of anything like that (visa restrictions).”
A Presidency source, who pleaded anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media on the issue, revealed that proper consultations were not held before the decision to pardon Alamieyeseigha and Shettima was taken.
The source said, “It is unfortunate that proper consultations were not held before the decision was taken.
“Normally, when decisions like this which have the potential of attracting international interest are to be taken, a small team made up of lawyers from the Foreign Ministry and civil society is set up.
“The team carries out a research, considers the likely repercussions and prepares a well coordinated response should situations like what we are witnessing today arise but this was not done.
“You cannot blame the US and other western countries who are likely to side with it (US) because, they provide funding for training and other logistics to assist Nigeria deal with corruption.
“To make matters worse, Alamieyeseigha has a money laundering case in a court in the United Kingdom; there is also this issue of him jumping bail. It’s really complicated.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Congress for Progressive Change have expressed diverse opinions on the controversial pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and four other Nigerians.
While the PDP, through its National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, insisted that the beneficiaries deserved the amnesty based on their conduct over the years, the CPC argued that the action was a “national embarrassment.”
The PDP therefore enjoined Nigerians to stop harassing President Goodluck Jonathan for granting the pardon because it was done in good faith.
The party, in a statement on Sunday by Tukur, berated the opposition parties for inciting Nigerians against Jonathan, arguing that the idea of granting pardon falls within the powers of the President as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution.
Tukur said, “I cannot understand why our people are politicising the issue of amnesty so granted by Mr. President.
“The question is; do you grant pardon to the innocent? No! Amnesty is granted to those people he felt did some wrong and after some time, their behaviour and attitude showed that the wrong they did was just a slip.
“We all call on our God to grant us mercy on the wrongs we do to him minute by minute.
“The PDP did not see President Jonathan committing any breach of our laws by granting the pardon. He allowed the constitution to guide his steps.
“Moreover, he consulted widely before taking the step and don’t forget that the government announced the amnesty after a council meeting.
“We should stop harassing him because those he had granted pardon are responsible citizens of Nigeria who, in spite of the allegations against them ,have continued to assist the Federal Government, the PDP and their respective states to overcome certain challenges.”
But the CPC said the anger of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora was justified because Alamieyeseigha and Shettima were “convicted for obscene corruptive tendencies and nauseous rapacity.”