The 2019 election was marred by intimidation and violence
Nigerian politicians responsible for undermining the democratic process in general elections last year were slapped by visa restrictions imposed by the United States Department of State on September 14.
However, their names remain classified — both the US and Nigerian governments have yet to release the list of offenders’ names.
Nigerian elections held last year on February 29 was won by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, with 15 million votes. Buhari defeated his closest rival, businessman and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party, who garnered 11 million votes.
Read more: #NigeriaDecides2019: Everything you need to know for this year’s general elections
In a State Department statement, US officials condemned the 2019 election’s acts of “violence, intimidation and corruption that harmed Nigerians,” and warned ahead of off-cycle elections to “uphold the tenets of democracy and facilitate genuinely free and fair elections, conducted in an appropriately transparent and non-violent manner.”
While this statement did not contain any specific details on how they determined who to add to this offenders’ list, past pronouncements reveal clues.
On January 24, 2019, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, on the heels of the general elections slated for February, warned that it was “paying close attention” to the actions of Nigerian politicians who “instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.”
The US Mission in Nigeria also emphasized that visa restrictions will be applied to perpetrators and their family members. The US State Department reiterated this threat on July 23, 2019.
Name and shame!
Henry Okelue thinks that keeping the names classified serves no purpose:
It really does not serve any useful purpose if the identities of those allegedly “slammed” with a visa ban by the US is classified. For all we know it might be nobody.
— HENRY Okelue (@4eyedmonk) September 15, 2020
Twitter user Cheta advocates “further sanctions” in addition to the visa ban:
Good move on the surface, but doesn’t really serve its intended purpose as a deterrent without further sanctions.
The US Dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. Prevent them from accessing USD, and watch their behaviour REALLY begins to change. https://t.co/7shT2P9MpF
— Chxta (@Chxta) September 15, 2020
Twitter users, Temisan Okomi and Ugo are curious about the US’ process to determine the offenders:
This US visa restriction on election riggers; is it those Nigerian courts convict or those the US used drones to monitor?
I’m a bit confused…
— Temisan Okomi (@temiokomi) September 15, 2020
@feathersproject how’s the US going to determine the election riggers? I’ve been wondering since you put am that link. Is it the people the government say are riggers or those they determine are election riggers?
— Ugo (@Hugo_simbaa) September 15, 2020
SaharaReporters, an online news platform, allegedly claimed that four Nigerian politicians were among those slammed with a visa ban.
However, Global Voices could neither confirm nor deny this report through contact with the Nigerian US Embassy and Consulate on Twitter.
An opaque election marred by delays, intimidation and violence
Another possible source for the offenders’ list may be found in the report by 72 local and 16 international election monitoring teams, who were invited by Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
About 47 people were killed on February 23, on presidential election day, according to the Situation Room, a Nigerian civil society group of local election observers.
Some deaths were caused by clashes between rival political groups or over allegations of vote fraud.
The European Union (EU) electoral observer mission, in Nigeria from January 5 to April 7, 2019, was one of several monitoring organisations during the 2019 election.
Read more: Nigerian governor warns foreign governments: Interfere in our elections and ‘go back in body bags’
The EU electoral observer mission confirmed that Nigeria’s 2019 general election was “marred by violence and intimidation” of voters in a June 2019 report. Nigerian security agencies also allegedly connived with politicians to unleash violence.
EU observers present during the collation of the presidential results “directly witnessed or received reports of intimidation of INEC officials in 20 states.” EU observers were deployed in Abuja, the federal capital, and the 36 states of Nigeria.
The EU report was collaborated by the findings of the joint Nigeria International Election Observation Mission of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI), both US-based, nonpartisan, nonprofit organisations.
The NDI/IRI observation mission emphasized that the 2019 elections lacked transparency as “candidates be imposed by party leaders through undemocratic means.” This resulted in “further fragmentation of political parties or in intra-party violence,” which essentially alienated voters.
The NDI/IRI team also noted that the unscheduled postponement of the presidential and national legislative elections to February 23, a few hours before the commencement of polling on February 16, shattered public confidence in INEC’s integrity.
Read more: Nigeria postpones 2019 general elections hours before polls open, citing ‘logistics and operations’ concerns
Election violence by Nigerian politicians is fueled by a culture of impunity.
Great to hear that the U.S. has imposed visa ban on Nigerian politicians responsible for undermining our democracy.
It’s pivotal that Europe follows suit.
A ban by Europe will hurt even more as their kids study in Europe and it’s their prime destination for holiday & medicals.
— Bulama Bukarti (@bulamabukarti) September 15, 2020
Nothing hits Nigerian ruling elites more than prohibited travel abroad with their families. The US visa ban may even promote transparency and force Nigerian elites to fess up.
But it still falls short.
Unless perpetrators of election violence, voter intimidation and rigging are named and shamed, it will be business as usual in the upcoming off-cycle elections in Edo and Ondo states.