In line with its threat to deny visa to those that sponsored and aided electoral violence in the general election in Nigeria, the UK has said it is reviewing the events and will act when necessary.
The UK’s clarification preceded the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) admission Wednesday in Abuja that the rescheduling of the elections created huge challenges for both foreign and domestic observers.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the crises of rescheduling, inconclusiveness and general confusions associated with the general election should be blamed on President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
While elections were characterised with various degrees of violence in some states, there was a high record of deaths as well as militarisation of the process particularly in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Bayelsa States among others, during the presidential and National Assembly, and governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
Responding to the media enquiries on the development, the British High Commission in Abuja, however, said that the UK is currently reviewing the elections and would also review events around all the rescheduled reruns and supplementary elections, noting that its position on election-related violence has not changed.
The UK in an email sent to the media by Atinuoluwake Adelegan said: “The UK takes a strong stand against election-related violence, and issued a statement before the elections reminding all Nigerians of our visa policy. This includes the right to refuse visas to enter the UK for those responsible for electoral violence.
‘’We are currently reviewing events around the elections on 23 February and 9 March, and will do so for any reruns and supplementary elections.”
Few weeks before the presidential and National Assembly elections, the UK in a statement had harped on the need for a violence-free election, warning that it would not hesitate to sanction anyone, particularly government officials and politicians alleged to have sponsored or were part of violent conduct before, during and after the general election.
Part of the sanction, the UK and US said would be meted out to those who forcefully interfere with the electoral process, include visa denial into the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as prosecution under International law.
It said: “Twenty-three days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections and 37 days to the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, the British High Commission in Abuja would like to reaffirm our strong support for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria.
“We and our international partners remain committed supporters of Nigeria’s democracy. We do not support any party or individual and believe that the Nigerian people should be able to choose their leaders in an environment free from hate speech and insecurity.”
While it added that the UK will continue to provide significant support to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and to Nigerian civil society to help them deliver credible elections, it said that the UK also regularly engage with actors across the political spectrum to encourage them to respect electoral rules and maintain an atmosphere of peace and calm.
“We will be deploying an extensive observation mission for the forthcoming elections, including coordinating with the EU’s Election Observation Mission. Our monitors will in particular be looking out for any attempts to encourage or use violence to influence the elections, including on social media.
“We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law.
“The UK is a friend and partner of Nigeria. We hope our continued support will play a role in helping Nigeria take a further step towards consolidating the progress made since democracy returned in 1999”, the statement read in part.
Similarly, the United States in the joint statement while stressing that the Nigeria’s election is important to the entire African continent, said the United States government does not support any specific candidate or party in the elections.