The UK has announced that it is collating details of persons found culpable of anti-democratic behaviour during the just concluded Nigerian elections.
“We can confirm that we are collating relevant information, with a view to taking action against some individuals,” it said in a statement shared by the UK High Commission in Nigeria.
The UK on 21 February through the Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, said that it is prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours. The action could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under its human rights sanctions regime.
The British High Commission observed the gubernatorial elections on 18 March, sending teams to Benue, Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers States.
It commended improvements around elections logistics by INEC during the gubernatorial elections noting that the improved areas are positive markers to build on for future elections.
It, however, raised concerns.
“Members of our observation mission personally observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations,” it said, adding that “We witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organisations of vote buying and voter intimidation, the destruction and hijacking of election materials and the general disruption of the process in numerous states including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers.”
Additionally, it noted incidents of harassment of journalists.
“Freedom of speech and a free press are crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened,” it said.
The UK expressed further concerns about the use of inflammatory ethnoreligious language by some public and political figures, calling on all leaders not just to distance themselves from this kind of language, but to prevent those who speak on their behalf from doing so in this way.
“It is a testament to their commitment to democracy that many Nigerians were prepared to vote despite being faced with intimidation and hostility,” it noted.
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It urged aggrieved parties challenging the outcome of the elections to do so peacefully and through the appropriate legal channels.
“The 2023 elections are not only important to Nigeria and Nigerians, but to Africa and the world as a whole. As a long-term partner, the UK is committed to strengthening the ties between our countries and peoples, including by supporting democratic development,” it said.
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