The United States Government on Tuesday vowed to impose visa ban among other sanction on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in undermining the democratic process in Nigeria.
In a statement issued by the US Mission on its website, it condemned the “use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos”.
Ahead of the governorship election in Lagos, there was tension as some individuals loyal to the All Progressives Congress warned Igbo people not to vote against the party. There was also contention over statements allegedly made by some Igbo people to take over Lagos and that the commercial hub is ‘no man’s land,’ which some south westerners or Yoruba people interpreted to mean a plot to take over their land.
Some APC chieftains including Bayo Onanuga and Femi Fani-Kayode made incendiary anti-Igbo statements while Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, a loyalist of the ‘President-elect’, Bola Tinubu, in a video warned Igbo people not to come out to vote if their votes would not go to the APC.
He, however, later claimed it was a joke.
In the statement, the US said, “Nigeria carried out the second round of its electoral process with gubernatorial and state assembly elections on March 18. The United States is deeply troubled by the disturbing acts of violent voter intimidation and suppression that took place during those polls in Lagos, Kano, and other states. Members of the U.S. diplomatic mission observed the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of these incidents first-hand.
“The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning. We commend all Nigerian political actors, religious and community leaders, youth, and citizens who have chosen to reject and speak out against such violence and inflammatory language, affirming Nigerians’ commitment to and respect for the democratic process.
“We call on Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process. The United States likewise will consider all available actions, including additional visa restrictions, on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Nigeria.
“Following the February 25 national elections, the United States joined other international observers in urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve voting processes and technical elements that experienced flaws in that voting round. The March 18 elections appear to have had significant operational improvements, as polling stations generally opened on time and most results were visible on an electronic viewing platform in a timely manner.
“The United States renews its call for any challenges to election results to go through established legal processes, which must not be interfered with. We further call for Nigeria’s people to work together as they participate in and continue to strengthen the country’s vibrant democracy.”