The United Kingdom has recently taken a bold step in collating information with the aim to impose visa bans and other sanctions against politicians who engaged in electoral fraudulent activities and anti-democratic exercises. This move comes as a result of the violence and voter suppression observed in many states, including Lagos, Enugu, and Rivers during the governorship and state assembly elections in Nigeria.
In a statement issued by the British High Commission in Abuja, the United Kingdom acknowledged that there were positives to take away from the elections, but the issues of violence and voter suppression were areas of great concern. Members of the observation mission personally observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations. The UK witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organizations of vote buying and voter intimidation, the destruction and hijacking of election materials, and the general disruption of the process in several states.
In addition, the UK 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. The British High Commission called 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.
Despite being faced with intimidation and hostility, many Nigerians were prepared to vote, which the UK considers a testament to their commitment to democracy. The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, stated that the UK is prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviors. Actions could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under their human rights sanctions regime. The UK confirmed that they are collating relevant information with a view to taking action against some individuals.
It is imperative to note that the UK’s move follows a similar stance taken by the United States in condemning the use of inflammatory ethnoreligious language by some public and political figures. The United Kingdom’s decision sends a strong message to political figures across the world that democracy is non-negotiable, and they will not tolerate any acts that undermine democratic processes.
In conclusion, the UK’s decision to impose visa bans and other sanctions against politicians who engage in electoral fraudulent activities and anti-democratic exercises should be commended. This move is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that the democratic process is protected and upheld, not only in Nigeria but in other countries around the world. It is important to note that the UK’s action should serve as a warning to political figures across the world that their actions have consequences, and they must be held accountable for any attempts to undermine democracy.