U.S. Imposes Visa Restrictions on Nigerians Accused of Undermining Election

An electoral commission official count ballots papers after the gubernatorial election in Lagos, Nigeria, Saturday March. 9, 2019. Nigeria goes to the polls on Saturday to elect state Governors and state House of assembly. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Sunday Alamba/AP Photo

The U.S. Department of State this week imposed visa restrictions on Nigerians accused of trying to sabotage democracy and undermine human rights during this year’s national and state elections.

On Tuesday, the Department of State reported:

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.

State did not explicitly identify any names or the number of sanctioned individuals in the statement. Nevertheless, the department stressed that the visa sanctions “are specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people or the newly elected government.”

State officials explained that visa restrictions are intended to pressure Nigeria to keep its commitments “to end corruption and strengthen democracy, accountability, and respect for human rights.”

On February 23, President Muhammadu Buhari won re-election in an election marred by violence, the killing of about 39 people across the country, and logistical problems that ultimately delayed election day from February 16.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and democracy.

State noted in its statement:

The United States is a steadfast supporter of Nigerian democracy. We commend all those Nigerians who participated peacefully in the February [national] and March 2019 [state] elections and have worked to strengthen Nigerian democratic institutions and processes. … We condemn those whose acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption harmed Nigerians or undermined the democratic process.

The U.S. warned that it would consider consequences, including visa restrictions, for individuals “responsible for undermining the Nigerian democratic process or for organizing election-related violence,” State acknowledged.

Over 70 million people went to the polls during the delayed general elections on February 23 to elect a new president and members of the country’s National Assembly lawmaking body.

More than 90 political parties registered for the presidential and parliamentary elections in February.

Buhari, 76, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) garnered 15 million votes in 19 states, beating his primary opponent, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDC) by about four million votes. Abubakar rejected the results.

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