2023 polls: We don’t have a preferred candidate -US Envoy

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The United States government says it does not have a preferred candidate in the 2023 upcoming presidential elections.

The United States ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard stated this Wednesday at a one-day multi- stakeholders dialogue on the theme:” Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Fostering Youth Action  for Peace and Stability” in Àbuja, organized by the National Orientation Agency in partnership with the Building Blocks for Peace Foundation.

“We favour no candidate, we only favour open, transparent and peaceful process,” she said.

She also reiterated the United States government decision to impose visa ban on individuals who undermines the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.

“The United States stands firm with Nigerian voters demand for a transparency and electoral integrity.  Individuals who undermine the electoral process in anyway including through intimidations and violence may be found ineligible for Visas to travel to the United States.  We would cancel and deny visa for those who undermine the upcoming elections.

“Our Visa records are confidential, so we would not be able to reveal the identities of those subject to visa sanctions. But I can tell you that I am personally aware of people whose Visas  to travel to the United States have been or will be blocked,” she said.

Speaking further, she said the United States has full confidence in INEC’s ability to conduct a credible and transparent elections.

She said: “First, let me start by sharing with you as I shared with other Nigerian groups m government view on the upcoming elections.  The United States supports transparent and credible elections that reflects the will of the people in a process that is conducted peacefully.

“The 2023 elections are pivotal for Nigeria, Africa’s biggest nation and the largest economy in Africa to solidify its position as a democratic leader in Africa.

“Elections are the foundation of democracy and the basis for legitimate transfer of power. It valuable for us to reflect on the fact that since 1999 Nigerian voters have excercised their democratic power six times to determine their next leader. For more than two decades, Nigeria has demonstrated to Africa and the entire world its strong commitment to credible and transparent elections.

“And at a time when many nations in Africa are challenges with its democracy, for Nigeria, these rules are internalized and accepted.

“President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are committed to deepening democracy in the united states of America and around the world. It may interest the Nigerian government to know that the Biden’s administration is strengthening partnership with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Civil Society Organisations.

“The United States has full confidence in INEC’s ability to conduct a credible and transparent elections. We saw INEC’s capabilities on display during the off circles elections in Ondo and Ekiti and we hope to see those successes extended nationwide in the February and March general elections.

“The signing of the Electoral Act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari and other elective leaders strengthens Nigeria’s electoral process with the use of BVAS for voter accreditation and electronic transmission of results. These are proven methods to improve transparency and drastically reduce the potential for vote tempering. “

Also, the Director-General of NOA, Dr Garba Abari, said that the dialogue was aimed at educating Nigerian youths to take action against hate speech and fake news in order to have peaceful and violence free elections.

Abari, then urged youths to shun drug addiction and other vices capable of truncating democratic process.

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