The US State Department is imposing visa restrictions on Nigerian citizens who Washington believes are involved in meddling in local elections in 2019 and 2020. This was reported on September 15 in a statement by the State Department released by the press service.
According to the statement, the Secretary of State was imposing additional visa restrictions on certain individuals for their actions during the elections in the states of Kogi and Bayelsa in November 2019 and in preparation for the elections in the states of Edo and Ondo, scheduled for October 2020. The ministry did not specify who specifically imposed restrictive measures but stressed that these actions by Washington concern only certain individuals and are not directed against the residents of Nigeria.
In July 2019, the US already imposed visa restrictions on Nigerians who, according to Washington, were involved in “undermining democracy” in that country.
A surprising decision
That this is quite surprising considering how many Nigerian companies are registered in the United States and employ people from the country. Some companies will take a major hit in losing their Nigerian workforce due to those vacationing back home now unable to return or new hires unable to travel to the US.
However, digital companies who don’t really require a physical presence in the US should fare just fine. For example, the financial industry in Nigeria has recently been diversifying in the US and vice versa, a primary example being Nigerian forex brokers tapping into the US market as much as they could or having direct access to neighboring Canada.
What is the story behind the violence in Nigerian elections?
The incumbent head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, won the presidential elections in Nigeria on February 23. More than 70 candidates applied for the top post. But the main struggle unfolded between two representatives of the Muslim North: Buhari and the former vice-president, prominent businessman Atiku Abubakar, nominated by the People’s Democratic Party. According to the election commission, Buhari won 56 per cent of the vote. Atiku Abubakar was supported by 41 per cent of the voters.
The elections were held against the backdrop of mass unrest. The opposition accused the authorities of manipulation and called on the government to resign. Together with the presidential elections in Nigeria, parliamentary elections were held. Representatives of 91 parties competed for seats in the National Assembly and Senate. Nigeria police detained 128 people. They are suspected of selling votes, stealing ballot boxes, and registering as voters under false names.
There were victims during the election day and several people were killed on election day in the general presidential and parliamentary elections in Nigeria.
According to the Situation Room, which monitors the voting, fatal incidents occurred in eight states. The organization also reported violations of voting rules and the burning of ballot boxes and documents in the city of Lagos.
In particular, in southern Rivers State, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a former local government leader and his brother in the Andoni area. Both victims were members of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s ruling General Progressive Congress party. In addition, people dressed in military uniforms entered some polling stations in the Okrika area of Rivers State and collected materials for voting, a police spokesman said.
There have also been sporadic reports of violence and attacks on polling stations across the country. At one polling station in the Yaba district of Lagos, clashes broke out when unknown persons handed out money to voters. In addition, local residents report intimidation of voters by bandits.
The turnout was reported to be lower compared to previous years. According to the think tank SBM Intelligence, there have been 67 incidents of electoral violence in the country since October last year, in which 233 people died – an average of two per day. 84 million Nigerians have registered as voters. However, only 72.7 million of them were able to take part in the voting – those who took their voter cards.
In addition to the president, the people of Nigeria also elected 360 deputies of the House of Representatives and 109 senators out of 6,500 candidates for these positions.
Nigeria is the largest country in Africa in terms of population and the leader in oil production on the continent. However, it is estimated that about 87 million of the country’s 190 million population live in extreme poverty.