The recent concern expressed by the federal government over the visa restrictions imposed by the US on some Nigerian politicians for their alleged involvement in electoral violence during the Kogi and Bayelsa states’ governorship polls could not have come at a better time. Without a doubt, Nigeria and her citizens have enormous contempt and even humiliation from countries that are supposedly her allies and development partners, including neighbouring African countries.
The federal government also frowned on the statements issued by the United States and the United Kingdom on the just-concluded governorship elections in Edo state and that of Ondo state billed for Saturday. It also expressed concern over the visa restrictions imposed by the US on unnamed politicians for their alleged involvement in electoral violence during the Kogi and Bayelsa states’ governorship polls.
Both the US and UK had vowed to impose sanctions on anyone who perpetrated violence during the Edo and Ondo elections, including imposing visa restrictions and blocking them from accessing their assets and prosecuting them under international law.
But reacting to the comments of its western allies on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, said it had taken note of their concerns regarding the elections in Edo and Ondo. The government explained that President Muhammadu Buhari has continually urged all parties and contestants to peacefully conduct themselves before, during and after the elections.
The statement signed by the ministry’s spokesman, Ferdinand Nwonye, added that Buhari also supported patriotic non-governmental initiatives such as the Abdusalami Abubakar Peace Committee. Furthermore, it explained that there were ample provisions in the nation’s laws to sanction violators and perpetrators of electoral violence and fraud.
However, it admonished the UK and US to cooperate with relevant agencies by providing them with concrete evidence of observed misconduct “to allow our laws and regulations to take their course. It would be considered disrespectful of the sovereignty of Nigeria for any outside authority to sit in judgment over the conduct of our citizens and apply punitive measures such as visa restriction, unilaterally.”
The federal government further highlighted that the responsibility for the conduct of elections in Nigeria solely resides with the Independent National Electoral Commission and state independent electoral commissions. “The federal government, and especially the president, is committed to providing all necessary logistics, financial and security support to the electoral process.
“While we appreciate the support and encouragement of our international partners such as the European Union, we urge our equally valued partners such as the UK and US to cooperate with our relevant agencies by providing them with whatever concrete evidence of observed misconduct to allow our laws and regulations to take their course,” the government stated.
Finally, the government expressed solidarity with the American government and people as regards their forthcoming election, “which we hope will be free from interference and violence”.
The United States had prior to the just concluded Edo governorsip election said it has imposed visa restriction on some individuals who are responsible for rigging during the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections in Nigeria.
“In July 2019, we announced the imposition of visa restrictions on Nigerians who undermined the February and March 2019 elections,” Mike Pompeo, secretary of state said in a statement. Today, the Secretary of State is imposing additional visa restrictions on individuals for their actions surrounding the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa state elections and in the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo states elections.
Pompeo said the individuals have so far operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and have undermined democratic principles in Nigeria. Both state governorship elections took place in 2019 with observers, journalists and civil society organisations adjudging them to be full of violence, voter intimidation by security forces and vote-buying.
Despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring winners in the elections, opposition parties rejected the results, alleging cases of rigging and unfairness by INEC. Governors of both states were subsequently decided by Nigeria’s Supreme Court.
Pompeo, however, noted that the visa ban was not directed at Nigerians in general but certain people that oppose peace and democratic values in the country. “This decision reflects the Department of State’s commitment to working with the Nigerian government to realise its expressed commitment to end corruption and strengthen democracy, accountability, and respect for human rights.
“We remain committed to working together to advance democracy and respect for human rights and achieve greater peace and prosperity for both our nations. We condemn the acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.”
The Buhari administration is justified in the expression of Nigeria’s dismay over the intermeddling of other countries in her domestic affairs and the reprisal actions taken to stem the interloping. Although it is in order to compel Nigerian politicians to play politics in accordance with democratic ethos and global best practice, Nigeria should be seen as capable of managing her affairs without external interference.