By Julian Pecquet - 03/15/13 06:49 PM EDT
The Obama administration on Friday threatened to cut off aid to Nigeria or even sanction the African country after the government of President Goodluck Jonathan pardoned a former governor accused of corruption.
“The United States government is deeply disappointed over the recent pardons of corrupt officials by the Nigerian government,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said. “We see this as a setback for the fight against corruption and also for our ability to play the strong role we've played in supporting rule of law and legal institution building in Nigeria, which is very important for the future of the country, obviously.”
Asked if the United States could cut off aid — Nigeria was slated to receive $660.5 million in the president's 2012 budget, more than any other sub-Saharan country except Ethiopia — Nuland didn't rule it out.
The U.S. embassy in Abuja also condemned the pardon, saying it was “deeply disappointed” on Twitter.
"We see this as a setback in the fight against corruption,” the embassy said.
Nigeria is a top oil provider to the United States and a crucial ally in the fight against Islamist militants in the region.