The United States Government ahead of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria has threatened to sanction politicians planning to instigate violence during the electoral process.
The US government also charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and Electronic transmission of results.
The Political Counselor at the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Rolf Olson, gave this warning on Monday while speaking at the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Alumni Association Annual Seminar 2022 on “Promoting electoral integrity in Nigeria: Prospects and challenges” in Abuja.
Olson noted that deploying the BVAS and the electronic transmission of vote results sheets in the 2023 general elections will ensure the integrity of Nigerian elections.
He further stated that the United States Government does not have a preferred candidate in the forthcoming elections.
Olson, “It never ceases to amaze me how often we see comments, claims, and assertions from people in social and traditional media about what our supposed objectives are in the elections, which candidate or party we favour, how to interpret certain statements or actions of ours in terms of what it means about our intentions are perceptions.
“In reality, I think it’s quite simple to interpret us, especially when it comes to the elections. We always try to be clear in our messages, so let me be clear here on several important points:
“The United States does not support any individual candidate or party in this election cycle (or for that matter, in any other upcoming election). Our interest is in supporting credible and transparent elections that reflect the will of Nigerian voters, in a process that is conducted peacefully. Full stop. Individuals seeking to undermine the democratic process, including through violence, may be found ineligible for visas to the United States.
“We have imposed visa restrictions in the past against those responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process, and remain fully willing to do so again in the context of the upcoming elections.”
Olson condemned the series of unproductive criticism directed at INEC and its officials in recent months.
He added that the United States Government is impressed by the commitment, evenhandedness, and diligence exhibited by INEC in its plan for the 2023 elections.
Olson noted that while nobody needs to forfeit their right to express legitimate concerns about the conduct of INEC, the consistent attack on the electoral body is not helpful.
He advised parties, candidates, and their supporters to avoid language that tries to “guarantee” victory, adding that there is no true democratic election in which the outcome is foretold.
Olson speaking on the need to use BVAS in the 2023 election said, one of the important steps in conducting a credible election is making sure that the individual standing at the polling unit to vote is who they say they are.
According to him, the BVAS virtually eliminates the possibility of any systematic effort to replace real voters with impostors.
Olson added, “It has not yet been used on a national scale, only in the off-cycle gubernatorial and other elections in the past year or so and we encourage INEC to make every effort to provide the training necessary to ensure its smooth operation on election day. The other feature is the electronic transmission of results from individual polling units of the vote results sheet. In one of my most recent overseas diplomatic assignments, I witnessed firsthand the benefit of having this kind of system to help ensure that the announced results reflect the actual results.
“The BVAS and the electronic transmission of vote results sheets are incredibly important steps forward in seeking to ensure the integrity of Nigerian elections, and we welcome both the Electoral Act’s empowerment of INEC to employ the technical and other means it deems necessary, secure, and appropriate to ensure credible elections and INEC’s willingness to do so.”