WASHINGTON – The Trump administration on Tuesday announced in a statement that it had imposed visa restrictions on Nigerians who undermined democracy during the recently held general elections won by the ruling All Progressives Congress and President Muhammadu Buhari. The administration has not named the individuals yet.
“These individuals have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights,” Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement announcing the travel restrictions on Tuesday.
Ortagus said the sanctions were not directed at Nigerians but were against the individuals who undermined democracy during the last elections.
The full statement read: “The United States is a steadfast supporter of Nigerian democracy. We commend all those Nigerians who participated peacefully in the February and March 2019 elections and have worked to strengthen Nigerian democratic institutions and processes. As Nigeria marks the twentieth anniversary of a return to democratic rule this year, we remain committed to working together to continue to advance democracy and respect for human rights and achieve greater peace and prosperity for both our nations. We condemn those whose acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption harmed Nigerians or undermined the democratic process.
“In a January 24 statement, the U.S. government said that we would consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for individuals responsible for undermining the Nigerian democratic process or for organizing election-related violence. To that end, the Secretary of State is imposing visa restrictions on Nigerians believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria. These individuals have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.
“The Department of State emphasizes that the actions announced today are specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people or the newly elected government. This decision reflects the Department of State’s commitment to working with the Nigerian government to realize its expressed commitment to end corruption and strengthen democracy, accountability, and respect for human rights”.
Reactions in Nigeria were swift. Atiku Abubakar, the main presidential opposition candidate who is still challenging the 2019 presidential election in court said the visa restrictions on some Nigerians meant the elections were massively rigged.
In a statement to TODAY NEWS AFRICA USA in Washington DC, Mr. Abubakar’s office said “After the conduct of the February 23, 2019 Nigerian Presidential elections, we maintained that the polls were rigged, not credible and that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar won the elections and that his mandate was stolen”.
“In the aftermath of the daylight robbery that occurred on Election Day, the regime of General Muhammadu Buhari and its allies went into a propaganda overdrive to deny the obvious. However, it is a truism that no matter how far and fast falsehood, or in this case, rigging, has traveled, it must eventually be overtaken by truth.
“It seems that day has come. After many months of living in denial, the Buhari regime is now faced with the truth in the form of a US visa ban on politicians who undermined Nigeria’s democracy”.
“We also wish to thank the United States of America for standing with the Nigerian people against those whose desire it is to truncate our democracy.
“Finally, we urge the Nigerian people not to despair. There is hope on the horizon. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The myriad of security, economic and social challenges Nigeria currently faces, which has resulted in our nation becoming the world headquarters for extreme poverty will, God wiling, soon be over, with the prospect of purposeful and result oriented leadership”.
On Friday, a political activist and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Timi Frank, urged the U.S. to ensure that the wives and children of the affected persons are included in the list of affected personalities.
According to him, some military personnel brazenly took active role in the manipulation of the 2019 electoral process to achieve predetermined objectives and therefore, they should not be left unpunished.
Frank also appealed to the government of United Kingdom, European Union and other advanced democratic nations who made similar promises before the elections to emulate the step already taken by the American government.
In a statement made available to newsmen on Friday in Abuja, Frank who commended the U.S. government for the step taken, added that making public the names and political parties of those affected would also not be a bad idea so as to discourage such undemocratic practices in future elections.
He, however appealed to the US, UK and EU to keep their eyes on the Judges handling cases in the election petitions tribunal and Supreme Court (especially the presidential election) to ensure that those found wanting are sanctioned with a visa ban.