By Tanko Mohammed
In less than a week after the U.S announced visa ban on identified election fraudsters, Nigerian government has considered the action disrespectful to its sovereignty for any outside country to apply punitive measures on its citizens.
Mr Ferdinand Nwonye, Spokesperson for the Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on September 18, 2020 in Abuja.
The U.S on September 16, imposed visa restrictions on those who undermine electoral processes while the UK threatened to emulate the action of the U.S.
The Nigerian Government said it was committed to providing all necessary logistic, financial and security support to the electoral process.
The Nigerian government has taken note of the concerns of some of our partners, especially the U.S. and UK governments regarding the elections, he said.
The government highlighted that the responsibility for the conduct of elections in Nigeria solely resides with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIEC)
He said that the Federal Government and especially the President, was committed to providing all necessary logistic, financial and security support to the electoral process.
He explained that there were ample provisions in the laws to sanction violators and perpetrators of electoral violence and fraud.
“It would be considered disrespectful of the sovereignty of Nigeria for any outside authority to sit in judgment over the conduct of our citizens and apply punitive measures such as visa restriction, unilaterally.
“While we appreciate the support and encouragement of our international partners such as the EU, we urge our equally valued partners such as the UK and U.S. to cooperate with our relevant agencies,” the government said.
Aside the visa ban on perpetrators of electoral fraud, the U.S. government reported it is re-evaluating its January 2020 ban on some categories of Migrant Visas for Nigerians having been satisfied with the country’s level of compliance with information sharing and other concerns.
U.S Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, commended Nigeria on the progress made in information sharing and other concerns raised by the U.S. government, which led to the ban.
Leonard explained that the Presidential Proclamation enjoins the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State to prepare a report addressing the measures that have been taken which is then submitted to the White House for re-evaluation.
She said that contrary to reports, the ban Presidential Proclamation did not mean that no Nigerian could ever enter into the U.S .
The Ambassador made the clarification at a joint briefing with Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.
She said fortunately the bi-national commission meeting was held at about the same time of the proclamation which allowed Nigeria’s Foreign Minister and the U.S Secretary of State to make public statements on what it entailed.
While congratulating Nigeria on its progress on greater information sharing with the United States, she said: “We have reviewed the Federal Government’s report on information sharing and we are inspired by the strides that Nigeria has made to improve access to stolen and lost travel documents.’’
She said she was particularly encouraged by the Sept. 7 announcement that the U.S provided interpol router which successfully connected to Nigeria’s Immigration Service and National centre bureau in Abuja.
On the imposition of visa restriction to those who undermine electoral process, Leonard said the U.S “takes it very seriously” and that anyone found guilty would be subjected to the sanctions.
Meanwhile, opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has commended decision of U.S and the United Kingdom to impose visa ban as well as seizure of assets and property belonging to those involved in undermining of Nigeria’s electoral process.
The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said the decision is commendable, coming particularly ahead of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), rights NGO, also praised the U.S. for imposing the visa restrictions.
The Executive Director of CISLAC, Mr Auwal Musa, said the action was a big boost to efforts to “restore fairness, credibility and transparency to Nigeria’s electoral process’’.
The convener Nigeria Consultative Front (NCFront), Mr Yunusa Tanko, also said the action would go a long way in strengthening the Nigeria’s electoral process and compel most political actors to play by the rules.