Few days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo appealed to the international community to carry out punitive measures against erring election offenders, the governments of the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK), yesterday issued a stern warning to electoral offenders.
In statements in Abuja by the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, Public Affairs Section, both governments said they would not hesitate to apply sanctions including visa restrictions to offenders and relatives.
The two countries vowed to pay close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.
Both countries affirmed their neutrality in the forthcoming elections, saying they had no preferred candidates whatsoever.
They expressed willingness to ensure a free, fair, credible and transparent election in the country.
The USA said: “The conduct of the upcoming elections in Nigeria is important not only for Nigeria, but for the African continent.
“The United States Government does not support any specific candidate or party in Nigeria’s upcoming elections. The United States supports the Nigerian democratic process itself. We support a genuinely free, fair, transparent and peaceful electoral process.
“We, and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.
“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process. Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations may also lead to restrictions on family members.”
The United States said it welcomed the signing of peace pledges by Nigerian candidates and their commitment to a peaceful electoral process.
It said the British High Commission in Abuja would like to reaffirm its strong support for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria:
“We and our international partners remain committed supporters of Nigeria’s democracy. We do not support any party or individual and believe that the Nigerian people should be able to choose their leaders in an environment free from hate speech and insecurity.
“We continue to provide significant support to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and to Nigerian civil society to help them deliver credible elections.
“We also regularly engage with actors across the political spectrum to encourage them to respect electoral rules and maintain an atmosphere of peace and calm.
“We will be deploying an extensive observation mission for the forthcoming elections, including coordinating with the EU’s Election Observation Mission. Our monitors will in particular be looking out for any attempts to encourage or use violence to influence the elections, including on social media.
“We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law.”
The United Kingdom added that as a friend and partner of Nigeria, it hoped that its continued support would play a role in helping Nigeria take a further step towards consolidating the progress made since democracy returned in 1999.
During a press conference last Sunday, Obasanjo expressed doubt about the integrity, impartiality and competence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to conduct a fair, free and credible election.
Citing the Osun State governorship election, the former president questioned the willingness of the ruling party, the All Progressives congress (APC), to allow the electoral commission conduct credible polls and called on Nigerians not to allow the “derailment” of democracy.
He appealed to the international community to carry out punitive measures against anyone who plans on interfering with the forthcoming elections.
Obasanjo said: “The international community who played an admirable role in warning INEC, of course, to no avail on the Osun State gubernatorial election and who have been warning all political parties must on this occasion give more serious warning, send more people to the field to observe and work out punitive measures against INEC and security officials especially the police and politicians who stand to gain from INEC’s misconduct, which is obviously encouraged by the executive arm of government and who must be held responsible for the violence that will follow.
“Such measures can vary from denial and withdrawal of visas from the people concerned and from their families to other more stringent measures including their accounts being frozen and taking them to International Criminal Court (ICC), if violence emanates from their action or inaction.
“Nigeria must not be allowed to slip off the democratic path nor go into anarchy and ruin.”