• Monday, April 22, 2024
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Guber Polls: UK begins process of visa ban, other sanctions on perpetrators of violence

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The United Kingdom (UK) on Wednesday said it has started collating relevant information to take action against Nigerians who who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours in the governorship and House of Assembly elections.

The British High Commission in Nigeria said its action could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under its human rights sanctions regime.

This is coming just a few day after United States, through its United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria said it will impose visa restrictions on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in the country.

The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, had in February warned that the UK is prepared to take action against erring individuals.

“We can confirm that we are collating relevant information, with a view to taking action against some individuals,” a statement from the commision read.

Read also: President-elect Tinubu jets out of Nigeria to rest, perform lesser Hajj

The commission stressed that the 2023 elections are not only important to Nigeria and Nigerians, but to Africa and the world as a whole.

“As a long-term partner, the UK is committed to strengthening the ties between our countries and peoples, including by supporting democratic development,” it stated.

The British High Commission said it observed the gubernatorial elections on 18 March, sending teams to Benue, Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers States.

The Commision said it observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations. “We witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organisations of vote buying and voter intimidation the destruction and hijacking of election materials and the general disruption of the process in numerous states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers,” the statement read.

“In addition, we observed incidents of harassment of journalists. Freedom of speech and a free press are crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened,” it added

The UK said it concerned by the use of inflammatory ethno-religious language by some public and political figures, and called on all leaders not just to distance themselves from this kind of language, but to prevent those who speak on their behalf from doing so in this way.

“It is a testament to their commitment to democracy that many Nigerians were prepared to vote despite being faced with intimidation and hostility”, it noted.

The commission said it however observed improvements around elections logistics by Independent National Electoral Commission during the gubernatorial elections, particularly when compared to the Presidential elections. It said more polling units opened on time, there was greater evidence of BVAS and IREV working and results uploaded in real time from polling units and collation centres. These are positive markers to build on for future elections.

The commission further urged any party or individual who wishes to challenge the process or outcome of the elections to do so peacefully and through the appropriate legal channels, saying it will be observing the course of legal challenges made.