The US on Wednesday said it will impose a visa ban on spoilers of Nigeria’s upcoming elections, showing intent to prevent chaos in Africa’s most populous nation.
The warning came amid fears of plans to either swing or scuttle the elections meant to determine the successor of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Today, I am announcing visa restrictions for those involved in undermining democracy in Nigeria,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“To support Nigeria’s upcoming elections, today I am announcing visa restrictions for those involved in undermining democracy in Nigeria. The United States supports Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law,” he said in a statement on his Twitter page.
Specific to ‘certain individuals’
The US Embassy in Nigeria, in a statement shared on its website, on Wednesday also said the visa restrictions are specific to “certain individuals” and are not directed at the government of Nigeria.
“We are committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world. Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election.”
The statement said individuals found involved in electoral dirty games, alongside their close relatives, will be ineligible for visas to the United States “under a policy to restrict visas of those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria”.
“Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections — may be found ineligible for US visas under this policy,” the US said.
Nigeria has seen an increase in violence in South East region and attacks on electoral infrastructure. There has also been a curious shortage of bank notes since the country decided to withdraw the old ones and replaced them with new redesigned one. In Africa’s largest oil producer, there has also been a continual shortage of petrol, seeing long queues at fuelling stations. Both of these issues could create tensions around election time.
Prof Akin Alao, a Nigerian political scientist, argued the change of currency close to the general elections was a plan to cause trouble in the polity, and the lingering petrol crisis a deliberate design to see the current government in bad light.
“These twin issues coupled with the increasing violence in south of Nigeria are enough to cause tension, discredit the party in power and cause outright apathy in the electoral process,” he warned
Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu, one of the 18 presidential contenders who is running on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party, on Wednesday alleged that these events are meant to scuttle the 2023 elections.
The 70-year-old candidate spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State, during the APC’s presidential campaign where he vowed that Nigerians would defy the fuel scarcity and trek to cast their votes.
“They don’t want this election to hold. They want to sabotage it. Will you allow them?” he asked during the rally.
A second joint pre-election assessment mission of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute had also expressed concerns over the rise in what they called politically-motivated attacks, warning that this trend could threaten the elections.