Guber/HoA electoral violence: US threatens sanctions, as Buhari hails process


…Says Nigerians given ample chance to elect their leaders

…More visa ban to be slammed on sponsors of election violence, intimidation

Although, the United States has condemned voter  intimidation and increased violence that marred the March 18 Governorship and State Houses of Assembly (HoA) elections on Saturday, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said Nigerians were given the ample opportunity to choose who they wanted as leaders without interference.

The US  in a statement on Tuesday said despite that the March 18 elections appeared to have had significant operational improvements, as polling stations generally opened on time and most results were visible on an electronic viewing platform in a timely manner, there were increased violence in Lagos, Kano and other reported states.

However, it commended stakeholders who spoke against the violence and intimidation melted on voters, adding that it was a sign of respect to democratic process.

The statement read in part, “Nigeria carried out the second round of its electoral process with gubernatorial and state assembly elections on March 18.

“The United States is deeply troubled by the disturbing acts of violent voter intimidation and suppression that took place during those polls in Lagos, Kano, and other states. Members of the U.S. diplomatic mission observed the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of these incidents first-hand.

“The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning.

“We commend all Nigerian political actors, religious and community leaders, youth, and citizens who have chosen to reject and speak out against such violence and inflammatory language, affirming Nigerians’ commitment to and respect for the democratic process.”

The US also threatened to sanction perpetrators, calling on Nigerian authorities to probe reports on election violence.

It said, “We call on Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process.

“The United States likewise will consider all available actions, including additional visa restrictions, on individuals believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Nigeria.

“The United States renews its call for any challenges to election results to go through established legal processes, which must not be interfered with. We further call for Nigeria’s people to work together as they participate in and continue to strengthen the country’s vibrant democracy.”

Meanwhile, on his part, President Buhari hailed the conduct of the elections, describing it as credible, while emphasising that Nigerians were given free hand to elect who they wanted.

He made the comment while speaking at a farewell meeting with the outgoing United States Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard, at the State House in Abuja on Tuesday.

“President Muhammadu Buhari says, given the chance of a free and fair election as well as non-interference as was witnessed on February 25th and March 18th elections, Nigerians have proved to be capable of deciding who leads them without anyone telling them what to do,” the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Garba Shehu said in a statement.

“President Buhari who expressed satisfaction with remarkable passion towards democracy exhibited by Nigerians through the choices they made in the Presidential, National Assembly and the subsequent Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections, said Nigeria’s democracy has truly matured.

“People are realising their power. Given the chance of a free and fair vote, nobody can tell them what to do. I am unhappy that some candidates lost in the election. But I am inspired by the fact that voters were able to make their own decision, to decide who won and who lost. With the currency change, there was no money to spread around but even then, I told voters to take the money and vote according to their consciences.”

The statement titled “RECENT ELECTIONS PROOF OF NATION’S VOTER VIBRANCY, MATURITY, SAYS PRESIDENT BUHARI,” further read: “President Buhari who was speaking at a farewell meeting with the outgoing United States Ambassador, Mary Beth Leonard at the State House in Abuja, said he was completely satisfied with his own role in the election process staying above it, without meddlesomeness or any form of interference.

“The President commended the outgoing Ambassador for the enormous achievements recorded in Nigeria-US relations in the three-and-half years she had been here.

“He chronicled a number of challenges faced by Nigeria as the country strives to unite our diverse communities and achieve national development and expressed his appreciation of the way the United States is able to hold together as a nation. He expressed the hope that Nigeria will continue to make progress in building a nation out of our different and competitive communities. He added that he enjoyed working with the Ambassador and wished that she had more time to serve here.”

“In an answer to a question posed by Ambassador Leonard, President Buhari said he planned to be a ‘big landlord’ back at home, working his farms and tending his more than 300 animals. ‘I am eager to go,’” said the President.

“In her remarks, the American Ambassador said she was happy with the progress made in Nigeria-US relations in these three-and –half years, specifically citing the recent institution of a five-year visa regime between the two countries; active collaboration in security and the supply of military hardware including war planes and the soon-to-come fighter helicopters; and also cooperation in the health sector to fight HIV and Covid response, giving assurances that US will continue to assist in the strengthening of Nigeria’s health sector.

“Ambassador Leonard expressed her gratitude and that of the US government in the continuing role of the President in ensuring regional security and strengthening of democracy as a system of government, citing his strong response against the recent surge of coups-d’état in West Africa as worthy of commendation.

“She expressed hope that even as he is preparing to leave, there are still a few more things the President could do, among which she mentioned, the urgent need to remove fuel subsidy.”