America’s richest man, Bill Gates, has cancelled his scheduled March 27 official visit to Nigeria, in response to the controversial pardon granted by President Goodluck Jonathan to ex-convicts Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Shettima Bulama.
Mr. Gates was due in Nigeria March 27 and 28 to meet President Goodluck Jonathan, state governors and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health concerning the aggressive polio eradication campaign his Bill and Melinda Foundation is undertaking in the country.
That trip, authoritative diplomatic sources said, has now been cancelled, two days after the U.S. government expressed disappointment with its Nigerian counterpart for pardoning convicted money launderers and warned it might cut aid meant for the country.
“I can confirm to you that Mr. Gates won’t be coming as scheduled,” one of our sources told PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning. “The body language of Washington D.C. 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.”
Our sources said Mr. Gates has already 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.
Presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, did not answer or return calls seeking comment. Contacted, the Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Asishana Okauru, said he would have to check with his staff whether any such communication had come from Mr. Gates’ office. He did not answer or return subsequent calls. Mr. Gates’ office is not opened as at the time of this report as calls were unanswered.
But checks by this newspaper indicate that the U.S. government has dissuaded Mr. Gates from coming to Nigeria.
“The State Department has advised him that Nigeria is not conducive for such visit at this time,” another source said. “We hope that the Nigerian government will get the message and return to the path of sanity.”