ABUJA, NIGERIA— Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has pardoned a former state governor who was convicted of stealing millions of dollars while in office. The move has sparked outrage among critics who say the president has abandoned the fight against corruption.
Former Governor of Bayelsa State in Nigeria, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, used to be President Goodluck Jonathan’s boss, and is described as a friend and mentor. In 2005 he was impeached after being convicted of corruption, having been accused of stealing millions of dollars before he was arrested in Britain. A presidential advisor says on Tuesday he was granted a pardon and is now free to return to political life.
Critics say pardoning the governor signals disrespect for the rule of law and an end to the president’s crusade against corruption in Nigeria.
Transparency International ranks Nigeria as the 37th most corrupt country in the world.
Presidential adviser Doyin Okupe says respect for rule of law includes respect for institutions created by the law, like the Council of States, which approved the presidential pardon.
“We must begin to honor and respect institutions that were created by us," said Okupe. "Otherwise what is the point? It’s like the parents. It is not everything the parents says that is acceptable to the children. But in due course we always find out that the parents were right.”
President Jonathan served as deputy to the former governor and has described him as a ‘political benefactor.’ Supporters say the pardon was an act of loyalty. Critics say the pardon could have been a political move ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming 2015 presidential elections.