On March 21st, 2023, the US government reiterated its stance on imposing visa bans on those responsible for the large-scale violence that ensued during the general elections in Nigeria, particularly the governorship and state assembly polls. The US Embassy in Nigeria released a statement that listed Lagos, Kano, and other states where violence occurred during the March 18th governorship and state assembly elections.
In addition, the US government expressed deep concerns over the intimidation of voters and suppression that occurred as a result of the violence. The statement revealed that members of the US diplomatic mission were present during the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of the incidents first-hand. The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning to the US government.
The statement went on to commend Nigerian political actors, religious and community leaders, youth, and citizens who rejected and spoke out against such violence and inflammatory language, affirming Nigerians’ commitment to and respect for the democratic process. Furthermore, the US government called on Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process.
The US government also declared that it will consider all available actions, including additional visa restrictions, on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Nigeria. This declaration is in line with the US government’s previous stance on visa bans, following the February 25 national elections, where they joined other international observers in urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve voting processes and technical elements that experienced flaws in that voting round.
However, the US government acknowledged that the March 18 elections appear to have had significant operational improvements, as polling stations generally opened on time, and most results were visible on an electronic viewing platform in a timely manner. The US government renewed its call for any challenges to election results to go through established legal processes, which must not be interfered with. Additionally, they called for Nigeria’s people to work together as they participate in and continue to strengthen the country’s vibrant democracy.
In conclusion, the US government’s declaration of imposing visa bans on those responsible for violence during the general elections in Nigeria is a clear indication of its commitment to supporting Nigeria’s democratic process. While the US government acknowledged improvements in the March 18 elections, it also emphasized the need for Nigerian authorities to hold accountable those responsible for voter intimidation and suppression, and urged Nigeria’s people to work together to strengthen their democracy.