By Mark Orgu, February 21, 2023, News/Comments
ABUJA-The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has reiterated the United Kingdom, UK commitment to the Nigerian general election, which will hold on February 25, and March 11, 2023, warning anybody planning to incite violence and undermine the peaceful conduct of the election to have a rethink. In her words, she said:
“I think, you know the world is watching this election in Nigeria, it’s hugely important. You’re the largest democracy in Africa in the region which you’ve seen some democratic backsliding. So, it matters for every citizen of Nigeria to the region and to the world. And generally I can say we’re very pleased with the progress of Nigeria’s democratic journey. Each election has made some improvements on process basically through improvements. Next, maybe you’ve got a vibrant civil society who’s very good at calling things out. So, overall ,what we’re looking for in this election is more progress and a credible peaceful and secure election”.
Laing however stressed that in terms of insecurity specifically, there have been a relatively high number of pre election incidents higher than in the last election and almost double. She said as the country enter the run up to the election, there may be different kinds of violence in different places depending on the context, the backdrop and how close perhaps the election is. In the area of post election, the UK high Commissioner opined:
“And then as I mentioned in an earlier briefing, there’s the post election. And we’ve seen this in the past in Nigeria and this is really a crucial message to get out and I’ve been saying to all the presidential candidates, they have a really important responsibility to ensure that their supporters, once we want them to come out and be Asiatic and support their candidate, that’s absolutely right that the result has to be respected. There’s only one poll that counts, that’s the poll on the day, and there has to be a winner and there’s going to be some losers. So, we hope there won’t be post election violence but it can be avoided and concerns can and should be taken through the judicial process”
Asked again on the penalities for anyone that may orchestrate and incite election violence, the consequences ahead, she hinted :
So again, just to explain the policy on this, and it’s no different than in previous elections. I was here for the last election and I made previous statement and our ministers did. Our policy is very similar to the Americans, and we’re watching very closely. And if we have evidence to suggest that an individual who isn’t necessarily a politician, by the way; it could be somebody from the security side, it could be an individual citizen, as the visa ban policy is not directed specifically at politicians” Continuing, the Commissioner warned that anybody inciting violence or indeed directly participated in violence, will be considered or prevented from travelling to the UK. We also have a new tool in our armoury which is human rights related. “Sanctions can be placed on an individual. You will see later this morning a statement on the elections from our Development Minister and African Minister Andrew Mitchell and there’ll be, there’ll be a clear statement on this which will be coming out this morning” she added.
Commenting on news reportage about US visa ban on some judges and others, she said she cannot verify US case to UK, but anyone involved in election violence will be punished:
“I can’t comment on the specific US case, and I’m not gonna say who’s in and who’s out, because the point of this is that, it can be applied to anybody, anybody who’s involved in undermining the democratic process and in particular, those who are inciting violence or conducting violent acts. But it can go wider. Hate speech and so on could be picked up through this. So, anybody, any individual in any walk of life who’s undermining the democratic process, we have used this tool before, and I cannot say who our visa ban policy is directed to but of course, the point as you mentioned is for this to be a deterrent to others. We want Nigeria’s elections to be peaceful. And so this is really just an indication that we are watching closely and we have this tool in our Armory”.
The Commissioner spoke on ARISE TV First Morning with Dr. Reuben Abati, Oseni Rufai and Ayo Mairo-Ese, few hours ago today in a zoom interview
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