US hails INEC, threatens visa ban over violence, intimidation

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The United States has condemned voter intimidation and increased violence that marred Saturday’s governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections in Nigeria.

The rescheduled governorship and Houses of Assembly elections was held in 28 states of the federation, with incidences of violence and voter intimidation.

The US Embassy in a statement on Tuesday, said though the  March 18 governorship and state assembly polls appeared to have had significant operational improvements.

However, America commended stakeholders who spoke against the violence and intimidation visited on voters, saying it was a sign of respect for the 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 US 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 partly 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.”

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