UK Reviews General Election to Determine Visa Ban

5
  • INEC explains additional challenges faced by observers
  • Blame Buhari, APC for election inconclusiveness, says PDP

Adedayo Akinwale, Alex Enumah in Abuja and Segun James in Lagos

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 THISDAY 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 THISDAY 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.

INEC: Rescheduling of Elections Presented Additional Challenges to Observers

Speaking Wednesday at the de-briefing of accredited observers in Abuja, the INEC’s Chairperson, Election and Party Monitor Committee (EPMC), Professor Antonia Okoosi-Simbine, said that the debriefing session was a platform provided by the commission for observers to discuss field experiences during the elections towards providing useful lessons for the conduct of future elections.

She said that going by the commission’s record, a total of 120 domestic and 36 foreign groups were accredited for the 2019 general election.

She added that the submissions by the observer groups also indicated that over 85,000 observers were deployed and participated in each of the two elections.

According to her, “No doubt, observation of the 2019 election must have presented its challenges not only on the account of the vast nature and terrain of the country with over 120,000 polling units and voting points, but also on account of the peculiar or additional challenges presented by the shift and rescheduling of the dates of the elections by the commission.

“One solace in my view lies in the contribution you are collectively making by your participation in the consolidation of Nigeria’s democratic growth. I am also delighted by the fact that a vast majority of those deployed by your various groups returned safely to their destinations without major hitches.”

Issues discussed during the debriefing include; Logistics and deployment of poll officials; opening, Layout and commencement of accreditation and voting; performance of election officials; smart card readers; conduct of security personnel; conduct of election observations and collation and declaration of election results at the various levels.

On the protest by corps members in Lagos during the governorship election in the state, a National Commissioner, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said that there was nothing like non-payment of entitlements of ad-hoc staff during the election.

He stressed, “It is not true that their entitlements were not paid. I think what happened was some of them got money somewhere and transmitted the information to their colleagues that the money was from INEC, which was not.”
He said that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Lagos who was interviewed by a television station confirmed that their entitlements were paid.

However, the observers lamented that there was lack of security while transporting and deploying electoral materials, saying there was need for INEC to make adequate arrangement for the transportation of electoral materials.

The observers noted that a situation whereby politicians try to help out in providing vehicles for the transportation of electoral materials give room for compromise

They equally lamented that logistics was the way it was in 2015, noting that there was no improvement, adding that INEC should begin to change the mode of deployment totally and said there was need to change the electoral process from manual to electronic.

Also, a domestic observer, Mr. Abdullahi Ari with Network for Community Advancement and Empowerment (NCAE), who observed the election in Nasarawa State, decried that INEC ad-hoc staff that were trained by the commission were substituted few hours to the election, lamenting that politicians in the state colluded with the staff of INEC to carry out such act.

Bishop Peter Ogunmuyiwa, a domestic observer, said that they did not record much problem in Abuja in the deployment of materials.

On the conduct of security agents, the observers said that even in 1999 when the military conducted the election, the country didn’t witness the level of interference from the military as was witnessed in the just concluded election, describing it as a show of shame.

On her part, Jumai Danuk, said that in terms of number, that the security personnel were more, but in terms of performance they performed abysmally, adding that when vote buying was done openly, they did nothing.

Also speaking, an observer, Mr. Mauric Ogbonnaya, from National Institute for Policies and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), lamented that in both the presidential and gubernatorial elections the security agents were not enough, stressing that there were places were the security agents did very well.

The observers noted that despite the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, assuring that three policemen would be deployed per polling unit, it was not so on the day of elections.

Blame Buhari, APC for Inconclusive Elections, Says PDP

Meanwhile, the PDP has said that the crisis that led to the inconclusiveness and confusions associated with the 2019 general election should be blamed on President Buhari and his party, the APC.

The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this Wednesday while fielding questions on The Morning Show, a programme on Arise News, the sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper.

He insisted that elections can only be free and fair if the sitting president and the ruling party allow it.
The PDP spokesman argued that the 2015 election was an example of free and fair election because the then ruling party, the PDP did not meddle or interfere in the process.

He said the ruling APC has compromised INEC to the point that elections which took place where the party lost became inconclusive.

“We are saying, whether they like it or not; and the PDP will not stop saying it, they compromised Yakubu Mahmood’s INEC. It is a fact whether they want to accept it or not. And as such, the only way we can come out of this is for President Buhari to stop paying lip service to electoral reforms. It is for the president to make his first assignment the return of the Electoral Amendment Bill to the National Assembly. As it is, he has failed woefully. The only legacy he can leave for Nigerians is a perfect electoral system. Let him work on that.

“Like I had an interface somewhere, they said to me ‘the rules are there to have a free, fair and credible election. How come this is what your country has turn election into?’

“I said to them, the election because of the kind of government we run in Nigeria will only be as free and fair as the sitting government wants it; and that is what has been demonstrated in this election. And I say this not because I speak for a party, but as a Nigerian who believes in the future of this country – who believes that unless we quickly come back to the base and redesign our electoral process, democracy will surely fail us.”

Speaking on the unexpected great performance of the PDP at the election, Ologbondiyan said this was due to the fact that “the people have seen and experienced the manifest failure of the APC and President Buhari in the last four years; his inability to live up to the promises he made in 2014/15 and his incapacity in managing the affairs of his own party as well as the affairs of government.”

He said also the management of the PDP has changed and improved tremendously since it lost power in 2015, saying that all these may have contributed to the fortune of the PDP at the polls.

Ologbondiyan said: “All these counted in the trust that Nigerians put in the PDP. And as you can see from the governorship election, that it is manifestly clear that the APC in conjunction with INEC rigged the presidential election. That is why they are fighting tooth and nail and doing everything humanly possible to legitimise the purported re-election of President Buhari by declaring states where we are leading as inconclusive so that they can go back and continue the rigging plot they have established”.

“But what the PDP is very sure of is that Nigerians are resolute, and Nigerians have resolved to ensure that they vote out the APC in the five states, which were declared inclusive.”