Visa restrictions: Nigerians task US to name affected persons

Visa restrictions: Nigerians task US to name affected persons

Some Nigerians have hailed the move by the United States to punish electoral offenders through visa ban, saying it would curb electoral fraud in future and help awaken the Nigerian government to its responsibilities.

They, however, challenged the US to reveal identities of those affected for the sake of transparency.

In a statement released by the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, yesterday,  the United States said procedures have been taken to slam visa restrictions on some Nigerians for subverting the democratic process during the country’s 2023 election cycle.

The statement posted on the US official website, said:  “Today, I am announcing that we have taken steps to impose visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process during Nigeria’s 2023 elections cycle.”

While noting that “the United States is committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world,” Blinken added that the visa restrictions “are specific to certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the government of Nigeria as a whole.

“Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these individuals will be subject to restrictions on visas to the United States under a policy covering those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy.

“These individuals have been involved in intimidation of voters through threats and physical violence, the manipulation of vote results, and other activity that undermines Nigeria’s democratic process.”

According to the US government, the decision to take action to impose visa restrictions shows that the US is still committed to helping Nigerian goals to improve democracy and the rule of law.

However, at press time, no name of any individual has been published.

Reacting, the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, visa threat is not new.

“The US has threatened to do so. It is not the first time. But it is not enough for the US to place a visa ban; it should disclose the identities of those affected. There are report that electoral fraud happened in Lagos, Rivers, Ebonyi, and so. It should go after them. After the ban what next? We need serious sanctions.”

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Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), said full disclosure of names of affected persons would help the country strip them of leadership positions.

Chairman of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) Dr. Pogu Bitrus, described the move as quite encouraging as he noted that crime in whatever guise should be discouraged by every well-meaning Nigerian.

He stressed that all those Nigerians that would be on the list that the US is going to deal with should also be prosecuted and brought to book in Nigeria, so as to sanitise the system and bring about development.

For the President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima, it is a welcome development and should be supported, even though such a threat in the past never yielded any positive result. 

He said: “Well, the US has always threatened to sanction those who are involved in election rigging and violence as well as those who undermine democracy in Nigeria but I have never seen them carry out the threat. Probably, if they have been doing so, some of our politicians would have started thinking and behaving normal during election.

“So, now that they have said they want to place a visa ban on those who undermined the country’s electoral system, particularly during the last election, let us see what will happen. But, we welcome the move and we support them, because we cannot continue to allow people to undermine democracy in Nigeria.”

Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), described the move as welcome development.

Its Executive Director, Auwal Musa-Rafsanjani, said: “CISLAC welcomes any sanctions  taken against those who commit, sponsor and enablers of electoral violence and electoral fraud in Nigeria, the restriction must be extended to all corrupt Nigerians.

“The government of the United States of America should liaise with other countries like United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and other European countries and secrecy jurisdictions to extend the same sanctions to these corrupt leaders

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“In another note, caution should be applied to prevent this move affecting law abiding citizens who go about their legitimate business in America.”

Also reacting, the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Prince Adewole Adebayo, said the move is a welcome development, but expressed fears that it might come to naught if the US did not see anyone that fits into its category of election manipulators.

The social media circle has also be abuzz. A prominent social media user, Chukwu Debelu, said, “What are their names? (These old tricks will not work in 2023), while another user, Weyimi Lube said; Dear Antony Blinken, we would like to know the names of the specific individuals who have visa restrictions. This is 2023, let the people know the names of the individuals who undermined the democratic process during the Nigeria 2023 election..

Another user, Frank Elendu, said, “But why can’t they mention their names? If it were Russia, North Korea, and/or China, they would mention the names and Frank Opara said, “Please, can you publish the names?”

Osasu Obayiuwana said, “It will be nice, for Nigerians to know who the affected people are. Naming and shaming them would be a lovely thing to do and Olaudah Equiano said: “If these visa bans don’t affect their immediate families, it wouldn’t be as effective and impactful. Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans are looking up to the United States to help protect our democracy and it’s tenets.”

Oke Umurhohwo said: “Name and shame the specific individuals. This antics of keeping such individuals no longer work”, while Igho Ekakitie, said, “ Dear Secretary Blinken Thank you for the first action. But can their names be published? Also, I agree that you need to extend this restrictions to their families as well. When President Biden talks about semocracy being the standard over autocracy, then the process that leads to such democracy must be democratic, transparent and fair and there was nothing fair about our 2023 elections. The world is watching and we hope y’all do right by us the Nigerian people as we do right for ourselves by calling on our Judiciary to for once in the history of our country do the right thing.”

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However, Chairman of Inter -Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yabaji Sani, said the US lacked the powers to sanction Nigeria and Nigerians. He questioned the outcome of the US presidential election which the former President, Donald Trump, claimed that he won.

Chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said he would have appreciated the sanction if it came from the United Nations and other international groups that Nigeria is signatory to.

“It is a case of a kettle calling pot black. Has Trump accepted the outcome of his election?

“Who gave the USA the power to sanction Nigerians? When? How? If it was the UN that sanctioned Nigerians I would have appreciated it. US lacks the power to sanction or interfere in our electoral system, he said.

A user, Tunde Adeparusi said: “More stringent punishment should be imposed on these electoral criminals. Hence, the election results decleared by INEC should not be applauded. Otherwise, this step taken by the US would not be justified. This is because if you condemn a shambolic process, please do not applaud the results declared based on the shambolic process”, while another, Amend said: “Restricting their family’s ability to access foreign healthcare and schools would be the most impactful sanction against African politicians who undermine democratic electoral processes.

“Refusing to legitimise the outcome of fraudulent elections by the U.S should also be adopted regardless of other interests the western governments may have.”

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