The United States and British governments say they will deny visas and impose other penalties on anyone who attempts to encourage or use violence to influence Nigeria’s elections.
In simultaneous statements from their embassies in Abuja, both nations expressed strong support for free, fair and peaceful elections in Nigeria. The presidential election is set for Feb. 16; state-level elections are scheduled two weeks later, on March 2.
The statements, released Thursday, declared the Nigerian people should be able to choose their leaders in an environment free from hate speech and insecurity.
Similarly, the U.S. embassy noted the United States government supports a genuinely free, fair, transparent and peaceful electoral process, not any specific candidate or party in Nigeria’s upcoming elections.
Both countries issued stern warnings against anyone who attempts violence or disruption. The United States says violations — such as election-related violence or undermining the democratic process — could bring consequences including visa restrictions. Those restrictions could also be applied to family members.
Britain says it also continues to provide significant support to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission and to Nigerian civil society groups to help them deliver credible elections. It will deploy its own extensive observer mission and will coordinate with European Union observers, as well.
It warns that anyone found undermining Nigeria’s elections could not only lose their eligibility to travel to Britain but also could have their investments in Britain frozen and prosecuted under international law.
The elections are consequential because Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, with roughly 203 million people, many of them young and underemployed. Despite having the continent’s largest economy, poverty remains widespread in Nigeria.