U.S Imposes Visa Restriction Policy Against Unnamed Individuals Undermining Democracy Ahead of 2023 Nigerian Elections

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Ensuring fair elections and democracy ahead of 2023 Nigerian elections, the U.S. imposes visa restrictions on individuals involved in undermining the democratic Process in Nigeria. Sending a very clear message with the enactment of this new visa restriction policy, the United States pledges sanctions and promises to be watching very carefully the actions of those involved in tampering with the election process in any manner. 

The visa restriction policy was shared in a press release on Wednesday, January 25th, by Secretary Blinkey, which detailed that the visa restrictions are on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election. This restriction comes out just a few weeks before Nigeria holds her general elections which takes place on February 25th and 11th March to elect new leaders including a new president and parliament.

“We are committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world,” Blinkey states. 

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will step down after serving two four-year terms following the February 25th 2023 ballot. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is facing unprecedented insecurity that has seen its electoral commission targeted by violence, including the bombing of its headquarters in one of the country’s states last month.

Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, secretary Blinkey states that 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.” the press release stated. 

The U.S does not name who these ‘certain individuals’ are and if they are a part of the government in the press release. In a press conference, when asked why the U.S did not disclose the details of those specifically being sanctioned based on the new restriction policy, Ned Price the Spokesperson for the U.S. Department stated that they didn’t go into the details about revealing the names of who they are sanctioning because visa records are private and confidential.

He said, what he can say is that this is a policy that does not target the Nigerian people but supports the Nigerian people’s desire for free and fair elections in the coming weeks. He adds on that this policy does cover those believed to be responsible for, complicit in undermining democracy, including through the rigging of the electoral process, corruption, vote buying, intimidation of voters, the media, or elections observers through threats or acts of physical violence, suppression of peaceful protests, threats against judicial independence or the abuse or violation of human rights in Nigeria.

He says, “we wanted to send a very clear message just as we indicated we would prior to the enactment of this visa restriction policy, that the United States will be watching very carefully the actions of those who would engage in any such activities. When we see that, we are prepared to revoke visas, to take other actions as appropriate.”

Today, we make good–we made good on that pledge, he ended. 

According to a report by Audu Bulama Bukarti, Senior Fellow at Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, this election is one of the most high-stakes elections that Nigeria has witnessed in decades and if successful, it will be the first time during its 63 years of independence that Nigeria has secured three consecutive peaceful transitions of power – an important indicator of how democracy has been progressing incrementally there since 1999, when the military last ruled. If unsuccessful, though, it will be a huge blow to a country already reeling from serious security threats, polarisation and economic challenges. Nigeria is Africa’s largest democracy and economy and most populous nation, so its election will also be closely watched by other countries on the continent, especially those that consider it a model for democratic process.

Reported by Adedayo Fashanu.

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