US repeats visa ban warning, citing those banned in 2019 and 2020
By Jeph Ajobaju, Chief Copy Editor
Washington has repeated its warning to impose a visa ban on anyone who rigs the crucial elections in Nigeria in 2023 which will determine whether the country remains in economic, political, and moral darkness or lifts itself into greatness.
The United States government threatened to sanction anyone who interferes with the democratic process or manipulates vote results or instigates violence.
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US Embassy Political Counselor Rolf Olson gave the warning at the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Alumni Association Annual Seminar 2022 in Abuja which theme was on “Promoting Electoral Integrity in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges”
Washington also expressed support for the decision of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and electronic transmission of results.
BVAS and e-transmission of results will ensure the integrity of votes, Olson argued but stressed the US has no candidate in the election.
The US has imposed visa ban on some individuals for their actions during the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections in 2019 and those of Edo and Ondo in 2020.
Washington did not disclose the identities of those banned but explained the decision affirms its commitment to strengthening democracy in Nigeria.
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Purpose of US interest in Nigeria’s elections
“It never ceases to amaze me how often we see comments, claims, and assertions from people in social and traditional media about what our supposed objectives are in the elections, which candidate or party we favour, how to interpret certain statements or actions of ours in terms of what it means about our intentions are perceptions,” Oson said, per Vanguard reporting.
“In reality, I think it’s quite simple to interpret us, especially when it comes to the elections. We always try to be clear in our messages, so let me be clear here on several important points:
“The United States does not support any individual candidate or party in this election cycle (or for that matter, in any other upcoming election).
“Our interest is in supporting credible and transparent elections that reflect the will of Nigerian voters, in a process that is conducted peacefully, full stop.”
Festus Okoye, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) National Commissioner and Information and Voter Education Committee Chairman, disclosed 176,846 BVAS would be deployed to all polling units nationwide.
At least two BVAS devices would serve as back up for each of the 8,809 registration areas, he added.
Okoye lamented INEC platforms are always subject to attack by political actors and faceless individuals and groups using hackers but promised the Commission would protect its assets before and after the 2023 ballot.