By Gbenga Abulude (Politics and General desk)
The United States Government on Monday imposed a visa restriction on Nigerians who reportedly undermined democracy in the country by allegedly participating in rigging elections held in Kogi and Bayelsa States, respectively.
Bayelsa State is being governed by the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) while Kogi State is an All Progressives Congress(APC) controlled state.
The American government revealed that it was extending the same restriction to individuals who flout the law in the build-up to the upcoming September and October 2020 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, respectively.
The spokesperson for the Department of State, Mr Morgan Ortagus who made this known in a statement he released on Monday explained that the move is ensure that popular candidates win elections, and by extension popular and participatory democracy is allowed to flourish in Nigeria.
The statement of reads in part: “In July 2019, we announced the imposition of visa restrictions on Nigerians who undermined the February and March 2019 elections.
“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 State elections.
“These individuals have so far operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and have undermined democratic principles”.
The US Government said the decision reflects its commitment towards strengthening democracy in Nigeria. However, it did not reveal the identities of those who have been banned.
“The Department of State emphasises that the actions announced today are specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people. 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,” the statement added.
The US condemned the acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.
It said it remained a supporter of democracy in Nigeria and commended Nigerians who participated in the elections in 2019 and have worked to strengthen democratic institutions and processes across the country.
According to the State department spokesperson, the US also urged all stakeholders to uphold the virtues and values of democracy and give operationalization to a free, fair and transparent elections.
The statement added: “As the Edo and Ondo State off-cycle elections near, we urge all stakeholders, including the Independent National Electoral Commission, the political parties, and the security services, to uphold the tenets of democracy and facilitate genuinely free and fair elections, conducted in an appropriately transparent and non-violent manner.”
It would be recalled that in July 23, the US government also issued a visa restriction on certain Nigerians who were considered as actors in the undermining of Nigeria’s democratic process and accountable electoral system.
The United States further added in its statement thus: ” We would consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for individuals responsible for undermining the Nigerian democratic process or for organizing election-related violence. To that end, the Secretary of State is imposing visa restrictions on Nigerians believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria. These individuals have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.”