The United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken claimed in a statement on Wednesday that the Biden administration is committed to “supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world,” and announced visa restrictions “on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election.”
The restrictions appeared to be a ploy to influence the upcoming presidential election next month, and not to punish individuals for a past election. General elections will be held in Nigeria on February 25, 2023 to elect the President and Vice President and members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is ineligible to run, after two terms of five years in office.
U.S. sanctions abroad carry a lot of weight and are often used to influence elections or punish individuals the U.S. government in power identifies as opposed to its own interests or the interests of the United States. Often, a low-level U.S. official at the U.S. embassy in the particular country is behind the sanctions.
Blinken did not name the individuals being sanctioned in Nigeria, only releasing a vague statement weeks to a presidential election.
Blinken wrote, “Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these individuals will be found ineligible for visas to the United States under a policy to restrict visas of those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria. Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.
“The visa restrictions announced today are specific to certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the Government of Nigeria. The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.”