By Akanimo Sampson
A leading Niger Delta political activist, Timi Frank, is currently pressing the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) to take drastic action on public officials and politicians subverting Nigeria’s democratic processes.
He wants UK and EU to emulate the United States’ Government by placing a visa ban on judges, security agents and their leaders, and appointees of government who have been undermining Nigeria’s democracy through subversion of election processes.
Frank’s lobby is coming as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and his Kano State counterpart, Abdullahi Ganduje, and the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State, Seriaki Dickson, have been allegedly banned from entering the US.
State Department sources who refused to release a detailed list say Washington is being careful not to release the complete list to the public in order not to create the impression that the Trump administration is targeting the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
The latest names of politicians and others on the visa ban is in addition to the past list that contains the names of Governor Nasir Elrufai of Kaduna State and the sacked APC National Chairman/former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as well as other party members and INEC officials.
Two Resident Electoral Commissioners, Monday Udoh, and Prof. Jacob Spam, both of Bayelsa and Kogi States are said to be on the latest list.
Officials say Washington is determined to help Nigeria grow and sustain its democratic practice and as such anyone linked to election violence, election manipulation, and bribery, would not be spared from the ban, pointing out that US is closely monitoring the Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
While Washington has vowed that more names will be included if the elections are by any means marred by irregularities, a statement by the spokesperson for the Department of State, Morgan Ortagus, on Monday said those issued visa bans received the sanction for undermining democracy in Nigeria.
“In July 2019, we announced the imposition of visa restrictions on Nigerians who undermined the February and March 2019 elections. Today, the Secretary of State is imposing additional visa restrictions on individuals for their actions surrounding the November 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa states elections and in the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo states elections.
“These individuals have so far operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and have undermined democratic principles.
“The Department of State emphasizes that the actions announced today are specific to certain individuals and not directed at the Nigerian people. This decision reflects the Department of State’s commitment to working with the Nigerian Government to realize its expressed commitment to end corruption and strengthen democracy, accountability, and respect for human rights”, the statement says.
Frank, a former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC however, says UK and EU should also ensure that members of the National Assembly and other persons who would want to partake in the destruction of the nation’s nascent democracy are prevented from doing so.
In a statement in Abuja, he commended the US on its ban on election riggers in Nigeria, especially during the conduct of the November 2019 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, describing the development as a commendable step that will further strengthen the country’s democracy.
He is also calling on US to include the wives and children of all affected politicians, security operatives and judges who help validate fraudulent elections results at Tribunals and the appellate courts, and recalled that he made a similar appeal in a statement in July 2019.
While noting that election riggers are enemies of Nigeria as their actions are responsible in part for the insecurity, poverty and social dislocation in the country, he adds, ‘’the US must be commended for this move which is in furtherance of its commitment to strengthening democracy in Nigeria as it would help checkmate individuals who have operated with impunity at the expense of the generality of the Nigerian populace.
“This Visa Restrictions should also be extended to recalcitrant Judges, INEC officials, Security agencies and political party chieftains who aided and abetted the rigging of the Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections while those who perpetuate similar crimes in the Edo and Ondo polls should not be spared.
“For our democracy to survive, all true lovers of democracy must ensure that the elections in Edo and Ondo states produce genuine leaders who will pilot the affairs of these two states.”