The Kogi government insists last November’s election won by Bello was free, fair and credible.
The Kogi State Government Is Unhappy With The Decision Of The United States To Place Visa Restrictions On Nigerian Individuals Suspected Of Electoral Malpractice.
The American government announced on Monday, September 14, 2020 that it has imposed restrictions on Nigerians believed to have engaged in electoral misconducts for the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa last November.
The affected individuals were accused of undermining Nigeria’s democratic process, or organising election-related violence.
However, the Kogi government has protested the U.S. government’s indictment of the state’s November 2019 election, an election won by incumbent Governor Yahaya Bello.
In a letter dated Wednesday, September 16, Kogi’s Secretary to the State Government, Folashade Ayoade, said incidents of violence during last November’s election were not widespread enough to deserve a mention.
While admitting that the contest was not without its challenges, she said the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.
The government protested that the U.S. intervention is also a slap on Nigeria’s judiciary, including the Supreme Court, which ruled that the election satisfactorily complied with the Constitution and the Electoral Act after Bello’s victory was challenged by his opponents.
The letter read,
“We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed, is create room, no matter how slim, for fair hearing.
“As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what, has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.”
The restrictions were also imposed on those who have behaved inappropriately in the run up to the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo scheduled for September 19 and October 10, 2020, respectively.
“These individuals have so far operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and have undermined democratic principles,” a statement by the U.S. Department of State read.
Many Nigerians have clamoured for a list of the affected individuals to be made public, but the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said on Wednesday it’s impossible because the visa application process is confidential by default.
“The names of offenders would not be made public as US visa processes are in fact confidential, and so, we do not publish a list; we do not make public who it is that would be subjected to this sanction.
“An individual who intends to travel or apply for visa would be refused and impeded, but it is not something that we advertise,” she said.
Similar travel restrictions were imposed by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, after Nigeria’s general elections in February and March 2019.
Following the initial announcement on Monday, the United Kingdom also announced on Tuesday, September 15 that election observers will be deployed on observation missions for the upcoming Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
The statement said those found to be sponsors of electoral violence could face severe sanctions.
“This could include restrictions on their eligibility to travel to the UK, restrictions on access to UK-based assets or prosecution under international law,” the statement read.
The national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and many Nigerians have called on the European Union, and other democratic governments to adopt a similar measure to clamp down on widespread electoral malpractice in Nigeria.