May 17, 2023/CSL Research
According to newspaper reports, the United States on Monday imposed visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process during Nigeria’s 2023 election cycle.
In a statement on the US State Department website, the Secretary of State, Antony Binken clarified that the visa ban was specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people nor the government of Nigeria as a whole. He further stated that the decision to take steps to impose visa restrictions reflects the continued commitment of the United States to support Nigeria’s aspiration to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. However, no names were mentioned.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All-Progressives Congress (APC) the winner 0f the 2023 general elections after polling 8,794,726 votes to defeat fellow contenders Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 6,984,520 votes, and Labour Party’s Peter Obi who polled 6,101,533 votes.
The 2023 general elections was one of the most controversial since Nigeria attained independence in 1999, the seventh in the cycle. It was also the election with the lowest turnout despite an increase in voter registration by 11% when compared to 2019.
The presidential election had about 25. 2 million voters with about one million votes voided compared to 87.2 million registered voters as reported by INEC. The governorship and state assembly elections were no different, as voter apathy characterized the elections and there were also widespread reports of violence and voter intimidation.
Many local and international observers condemned the 25 February Presidential/National Assembly Elections and the 18 March Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections.
The populace had great expectations for the elections with the introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) technology by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), which many generally believed would solve the problem of rigging and help improve the country’s electoral process, especially given the assurances by the commission’s chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu that the election results will be transmitted electronically and in real-time to the commission’s central server.
However, INEC failed to deliver on its promise as the results of the Presidential and some state’s governorship elections were not uploaded electronically as promised, giving room for alleged manipulations and falsifications of figures.
In the last election, some politicians and stakeholders by their actions and utterances encouraged thugs and criminal gangs who engaged in violence to suppress opponents, deter rival candidates and influence the electoral process.
Some candidates were accused of inciting hate speech and stoking inter-communal tensions, at the risk of escalating violence in a country that has had a long history of electoral violence since its independence in 1960. We welcome the visa ban on prominent Nigerians who participated in undermining the country’s democratic process but wonder what concrete evidence will be needed to brand an individual a democratic saboteur.