[By VICTOR NZE]
Government of the United Kingdom (UK) has said it will clamp down on individuals identified as being responsible for violence during the forthcoming Edo and Ondo state governorship elections on September 19 and October 10, respectively.
The warning follows a similar action taken by the United States, which Tuesday, announced visa ban on individuals indicted in the November 2019 governorship poll in Bayelsa and Kogi states, as well as in the run-in to the forthcoming September 19 Edo and October 10 elections in Ondo state.
According to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, in a statement, released via the mission’s Twitter handle @UKinNigeria, Tuesday, individuals found culpable of perpetrating violence risk travel ban to the country, among other measures put in place, as it ‘takes a strong stand against election-related violence.’
“As we all rebuild from #COVID19, countries must continue to embrace the tenets of #Democracy – Transparency, responsiveness & Accountability. We look forward to seeing peaceful #Edo and #Ondo states elections, where the mandate of the people is respected and protected,” the high Commissioner said.
Describing the elections as ‘an essential element of effective governance within both states and as an indicator of the strength of Nigeria’s democratic institutions,’ the UK Mission also disclosed that its High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has held meetings with leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a view to ensuring a violence-free poll.
“As a friend and partner we are closely following the lead up to the off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states scheduled for September 19 and October 10 respectively. These elections are important, both as an essential element of effective governance within both states and as an indicator of the strength of Nigeria’s democratic institutions.
“Our High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has held meetings with leaders of the two main political parties, the APC and PDP. The discussions focused on the need for the parties’ leaders to prevail on their supporters to avoid violence before and after the elections and we welcome the Edo candidates’ signature of the national Peace Committee and INEC convened peace accord today.
“We will be deploying observation missions to both the Edo and Ondo elections and supporting civil society led observations.
“The UK takes a strong stand against election-related violence and, just as we did in the general election in 2019, will continue to take action against individuals we identify as being responsible for violence during the elections.
“This could include restrictions on the eligibility for travel to the UK, restrictions on access to UK based assets or prosecution under international law.
“The UK will continue to provide support and engagement as we move towards these elections. We urge INEC, the Police and all other agencies involved to work together to deliver free, fair and credible elections,” the statement read.
Earlier Tuesday, the United States announced visa ban on some politicians in the country indicted in electoral violence in Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo and Ondo states.
Although, the U.S did not disclose names of the affected individuals, sources claim the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello of Kogi.
“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 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 read.
“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,” the US stated. The State Department, in the statement, said it condemned acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.