Visa ban: Nigerians challenges US reveal identities of affected persons

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Some Nigerians have praised the United States‘ decision to penalise election criminals with visa bans, claiming that it will reduce future electoral fraud and help awaken the Nigerian government to its obligations.

They, however, challenged the US to reveal identities of those affected for the sake of transparency.

In a statement issued yesterday by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the US stated processes had been put in place to impose visa restrictions on specific Nigerians for undermining the democratic process during the country’s 2023 election cycle.

The statement posted on the US official website, said:  “Today, I am announcing that we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process during Nigeria’s 2023 elections cycle.”

While noting that “the United States is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world,” Blinken added that the visa restrictions “are specific to certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the government of Nigeria as a whole.

“Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these individuals will be subject to restrictions on visas to the United States under a policy covering those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy.

“These individuals have been involved in intimidation of voters through threats and physical violence, the manipulation of vote results, and other activity that undermines Nigeria’s democratic process.”

According to the US government, the decision to take action to impose visa restrictions shows that the US is still committed to helping Nigerian goals to improve democracy and the rule of law.

However, at press time, no name of any individual has been published.

Reacting, the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, visa threat is not new.

“The US has threatened to do so. It is not the first time. But it is not enough for the US to place a visa ban; it should disclose the identities of those affected. There are report that electoral fraud happened in Lagos, Rivers, Ebonyi, and so. It should go after them. After the ban what next? We need serious sanctions.”

Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), said full disclosure of names of affected persons would help the country strip them of leadership positions.

Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) Dr. Pogu Bitrus, described the move as quite encouraging as he noted that crime in whatever guise should be discouraged by every well-meaning Nigerian.

He stressed that all those Nigerians that would be on the list that the US is going to deal with should also be prosecuted and brought to book in Nigeria, so as to sanitise the system and bring about development.

For the President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, it is a welcome development and should be supported, even though such a threat in the past never yielded any positive result. 

He said: “Well, the US has always threatened to sanction those who are involved in election rigging and violence as well as those who undermine democracy in Nigeria but I have never seen them carry out the threat. Probably, if they have been doing so, some of our politicians would have started thinking and behaving normal during election.

“So, now that they have said they want to place a visa ban on those who undermined the country’s electoral system, particularly during the last election, let us see what will happen. But, we welcome the move and we support them, because we cannot continue to allow people to undermine democracy in Nigeria.”

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), described the move as welcome development.

Its Executive Director, Auwal Musa-Rafsanjani, said: “CISLAC welcomes any sanctions  taken against those who commit, sponsor and enablers of electoral violence and electoral fraud in Nigeria, the restriction must be extended to all corrupt Nigerians.

“The government of the United States of America should liaise with other countries like United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other European countries and secrecy jurisdictions to extend the same sanctions to these corrupt leaders

“In another note, caution should be applied to prevent this move affecting law abiding citizens who go about their legitimate business in America.”

Also reacting, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Adewole Adebayo, said the move is a welcome development, but expressed fears that it might come to naught if the US did not see anyone that fits into its category of election manipulators.