United States’ richest man, Mr. Bill Gates, has cancelled his scheduled March 27 official visit to Nigeria in response to the controversial pardon granted by President Goodluck Jonathan to two ex-convicts, former Bayelsa State governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and former managing director of the Bank of the North (now Unity Bank Plc) Alhaji Shettima Bulama.
Gates was due in Nigeria on March 27 and 28 to meet Jonathan, state governors and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health concerning the aggressive polio eradication campaign the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is undertaking in the country.
The trip, authoritative diplomatic sources said, has now been cancelled, two days after the US government expressed disappointment with its Nigerian counterpart for pardoning convicted money launderers and warned it might cut aid meant for the country.
One of the sources also said, “I can confirm to you that Gates won’t be coming as scheduled. The body language of Washington, DC, does not support his travelling to Nigeria. The thinking here is that the Nigerian government has high tolerance level for corruption and should be ostracized in all ways possible.”
Gates was further said to have instructed his staff to inform the Nigerian presidency, the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Federal Ministry of Health that he was no longer coming.
The controversial pardon granted Alamieyeseigha and Bulama had led to a diplomatic row between Nigeria and the US.
Gates is the biggest foreign supporter of the campaign to eradicate polio in Nigeria and has worked consistently with the federal government since 2009 on the matter. His foundation has developed a six-year strategy through 2018 that will help combat polio in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and has set aside $1billion per annum for the purpose.