By Biodun Busari
The United Kingdom, UK, said it had embarked on an exercise of collating information with the aim to impose visa bans and other sanctions against politicians that engaged in electoral fraud and anti-democratic exercises.
According to the UK, the individuals to be punished were those who engaged in violence and voter suppression in the governorship and state assembly elections in Nigeria.
In a statement by the British High Commission in Abuja, the UK said there were positives to take away from the elections but noted that violence and voter suppression were observed in many states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers.
The UK was following suit initiated earlier by the United States in condemning the “use of inflammatory ethnoreligious language by some public and political figures”.
The British High Commission said, “These are positive markers to build on for future elections. However, there were notable points of concern. Members of our observation mission personally observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations.
“We witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organisations of vote buying and voter intimidation the destruction and hijacking of election materials and the general disruption of the process in numerous states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers.
“In addition, we observed incidents of harassment of journalists. Freedom of speech and a free press are crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened.
“The UK is concerned by the use of inflammatory ethnoreligious language by some public and political figures. We call on all leaders not just to distance themselves from this kind of language, but to prevent those who speak on their behalf from doing so in this way.
“It is a testament to their commitment to democracy that many Nigerians were prepared to vote despite being faced with intimidation and hostility.
“The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, said on 21 February, that the UK is prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours, and action could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under our human rights sanctions regime.
“We can confirm that we are collating relevant information, with a view to taking action against some individuals.”
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.