THE United Kingdom has vowed to sanction Nigerians seeking to undermine the 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, stated this during an interview with newsmen in Abuja on Sunday.
Laing said some of the sanctions, which included visa ban, had worked in the past and deterred election offenders in the country.
“And if we understand that an individual has been involved in violence, either directly or through inciting violence, we can use our visa programme to ensure that that person is not allowed to travel to the UK.
“We do have some negative levers, as well as our positive levers.
“They (visa sanctions) absolutely do work. Obviously, I cannot talk about individual names, but I can assure you we have used it and the whole point of it is to deter people,” she said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported the diplomat as saying that both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) had in the past commended UK for the visa ban on the country’s electoral offenders.
The high commissioner also pledged the UK’s commitment to helping Nigeria to conduct a credible and transparent election next year.
She assured Nigerians that the UK cared about democracy in the country, stressing that it had supported the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in many ways, including ensuring that necessary systems and processes were in place to strengthen the electoral system.
The UK stated that it supported the passage of the Electoral Act through funding legal advisors to help write the Act and look at best practices globally.
“And it has been instrumental. So, with the passing of that, then the possibility for electronic transmission of votes, the young people feel much more confident that their votes will count,” she said.
Laing also noted that her country had supported civil societies, including women groups, to provide voters’ advocacy and education in Nigeria.
She said, “We support the civil society, YIAGA’s Not Too Young To Run Campaign. Alongside U.S. partners, we support that and we have been supporting women groups, in particular, to encourage young women, more women to try and stand for political offices.
“We are supporting voter education, encouraging voters to understand the importance of going out to vote. So we are involved in a number of different ways.
“I should say we always say that each election, alongside our US partners that we will have eyes on, we will be monitoring this election closely on the ground and through other means,” she said.
Citing the unrest and military dictorship in Mali, Guinea and other African countries, Laing noted that if Nigeria continued to uphold strong democratic tenets, it could become a beacon of democracy in Africa.
“Looking at what is happening in Mali, Guinea and others, the coups and the presidents who are refusing to step down when their terms end, as well as Nigeria’s journey to democracy since 1999, you know, it’s been rocky at times.
“But you have continued on that pathway, and that sends a very, very important signal to Africa, that if Nigeria can do it — the biggest democracy in Africa with all the challenges you have with 36 states, and with the complexity of ethnicity and religion, and so on – they can do it too,” she said.
While noting that no election in the world was perfect, she was hopeful that next year’s elections would be credible.