The United States has slammed a visa ban on some Nigerians and their family members for undermining the country’s democracy.
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, who announced this in a statement on Wednesday, said the move was part of Washington’s move to advance democracy and tackle corruption in Nigeria.
Although the top US diplomat was silent on the affected individuals, he said they were sanctioned for their roles in the efforts at undermining a recent election in the country.
Blinken added that the visa restriction was not targeted at Nigerians or the government.
The Ekiti and Osun State governorship elections held in the second half of last year were marred by allegations of widespread irregularities, including vote-buying and over-voting respectively.
The Ekiti State governorship election petitions tribunal has affirmed the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, in the election while the Osun State panel will deliver its ruling on the petition filed by ex-governor Gboyega Oyetola on Friday.
The US and the British governments had last year vowed to impose visa restrictions on promoters of violence and other individuals accused of frustrating Nigeria’s electoral process.
Blinken said: “We are committed to supporting and advancing democracy in Nigeria and around the world. Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on specific individuals in Nigeria for undermining the democratic process in a recent Nigerian election.
‘’Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, these individuals will be found ineligible for visas to the United States under a policy to restrict visas of those believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining democracy in Nigeria.
‘’Certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including in the lead-up to, during, and following Nigeria’s 2023 elections—may be found ineligible for US visas under this policy.
‘’The visa restrictions announced today (Wednesday) are specific to certain individuals and are not directed at the Nigerian people or the Government of Nigeria. The decision to impose visa restrictions reflects the commitment of the United States to support Nigerian aspirations to combat corruption and strengthen democracy and the rule of law.”