The government of the United Kingdom has commenced the collation of names of individuals identified to have played roles that undermined democracy during last Saturday’s Governorship and State Assembly Elections in Nigeria. New Telegraph learnt that the list would include politicians and their accomplices who engaged in electoral violence, voter suppression, hate speech and other anti-democratic acts during the polls. In a statement issued today and signed by Atinuke Akande-Alegbe, a Senior Communications and Public Diplomacy Officer, the British High Commission said a visa ban will be imposed on individuals found culpable in the widespread violence that marred the election. The Commission said members of its observation mission observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations on Saturday.
“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 ethno-religious 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,” the statement read. The Commission, however, commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for some marginal improvements recorded in terms of logistics during the governorship elections. “More polling units opened on time, there was greater evidence of BVAS and IREV working and results uploaded in real time from polling units and collation centres. These are positive markers to build on for future elections,” the Commission stated. It hailed the commitment to democracy by many Nigerians even in the face of intimidation and hostility.
“We urge any party or individual who wishes to challenge the process or outcome of the elections to do so peacefully and through the appropriate legal channels. We will be observing the course of legal challenges made. “The 2023 elections are not only important to Nigeria and Nigerians, but to Africa and the world as a whole. “As a long-term partner, the UK is committed to strengthening the ties between our countries and peoples, including by supporting democratic development,” the statement read. The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, had on Tuesday declared that the UK was 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 its human rights sanctions regime.