Nigeria Election Rigging: Saraki applauds US Visa sanctions against culprits

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, has asked the United Kingdom and the European Union to take a cue from the United States and place a visa ban on election riggers in Nigeria.

Saraki made the call on Tuesday while speaking at an event organised by the Centre for Advancement of Civil Liberties to mark this year’s International Day of Democracy.

It would be recalled that the US, on Monday, placed visa restriction on individuals who undermined the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, about a year after it took similar measures against those who compromised the 2019 elections.

Saraki said such restrictions are necessary steps to caution the enemies of democracy, and that they should be extended to electoral and security officials.

“The US decision to place visa restrictions on certain Nigerian politicians for their ignoble roles in the 2019 elections is commendable.

“I call on the UK and the European Union to follow suit. This is necessary to send the right and strong signal that those who undermine democracy in Nigeria are enemies of the rest of the democratic world.

“The sanctions should go beyond politicians and include electoral officers, security officials and judicial officers who undermine our democracy by their actions during and after elections,” he said.

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Saraki said rigging an election is not only evident at the polls but extends to other areas such as the registration of voters, emergence of candidates, operations of political parties, preparations by the electoral commission, independence of the electoral commission and neutrality of the security agencies.

He also called for a speedy passage of the electoral act to improve the credibility of elections as well as an end to the “illegal interference in the electoral process by security agencies.”

“May be there should be a law that prevents the deployment of the military for election assignments. We should ensure strict compliance with the law on this and even go further to enshrine this in our constitution.

“It is also important we come in strong in the enforcement of the provisions of the law which provides for punishment of politicians, law enforcement agents, ordinary citizens and electoral officers who are caught subverting the electoral process,” he said.

In a related development, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, Natasha Akpoti, has said the visa ban on election riggers in Kogi State should be extended to principal officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).

She said that this is necessary because of the “ignoble roles” they played in the Kogi election.

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Natasha Akpoti

Akpoti made the call in a statement on Tuesday to react to the United States’ visa ban on individuals who undermined electoral processes in Nigeria.

She applauded the US government for its decision to place a visa ban on individuals who rigged Kogi elections and others.

She said, “I do hope this ban is limited not only to the individuals in Kogi State Government but principals of institutions who were saddled with the responsibility to ensure free, fair and safe elections such as INEC.

“This action goes a long way to validate all claims my party and I made at the courts with regards to the gross irregularities of electoral processes amidst violence to install Yahaya Bello as governor of Kogi State.”

Akpoti said Nigerians should remember that the country doesn’t exist in isolation but as part of a community of third world countries whose actions shape her international relations with allies.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has said it will take action against individuals who mastermind violence during the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.

It said the sanction could include restrictions on their eligibility to travel to the UK, restrictions on access to UK-based assets, or prosecution under international law just as it did after the 2019 elections.

The British High Commission in Nigeria stated this in a statement published on its Twitter handle on Tuesday.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, in the statement, said she has held meetings with the leaders of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party on the Saturday governorship election in Edo State.

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British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing

The commission explained that the parley focused on the need for the parties to prevail on their supporters to avoid violence before, during, and after the elections.

It further said the UK welcomed the signing of a peace accord by the governorship candidates in the state.

The commission disclosed that it would be deploying observation missions to both Edo and Ondo polls while supporting civil society-led observation.

The statement read, “The UK takes a strong stand against election-related violence and just as we did in the general election in 2019, we will continue to take action against individuals we identify as being responsible for violence during elections.

“This could include restrictions on their eligibility to travel to the UK, restrictions on access to UK-based assets or prosecution under international law.”

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