Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, has said that the United States of America and the United Kingdom might not activate their threat to impose sanctions against election riggers and sponsors of violence in the just-concluded 2023 general elections in Nigeria.
Akinyemi, who was a guest on Arise Television’s Morning Show on Friday stated that the two world powers are fond of threatening to sanction electoral offenders anytime there was an election in Nigeria, but that they rarely put their threats into action. The elder statesman spoke against the backdrop of the violence that marred the elections in many states of the federation and the threat by the U.S. and the UK to impose visa ban on the sponsors of the violence. “Everytime we have an election in Nigeria, both the United States of America and the United Kingdom always said that they would sanction those who they suspect are guilty of malfeasance or who try to sabotage the electoral process, but nothing ever happened. “I cannot remember any person being sanctioned in terms of visa denial. We do hear this being bandied around from time to time, but they never applied any sanction.
The reason is that those who they probably know are behind these attempts at derailing the democratic process are people who have fat bank accounts in their countries. They are more interested in keeping those bank accounts than in applying these sanctions. “The ordinary foot soldiers, who carry the guns, cutlasses and the big sticks that we saw on the television don’t apply for visas in any case because they are not interested in going anywhere. That is why I think that this is just a noise; it’s not going to lead to anywhere,” he said.
Akinyemi however, recalled that he was a member of the Uwais Electoral Reform Panel that recommended the setting up of an electoral offences commission and electoral offences court or tribunal, but that nothing ever happened to the recommendations. He revealed that the report was jettisoned because of the death of former President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, who he said promised, both at the beginning and when he was receiving the report, that he would implement it without any amendment, but that after his death, former President Goodluck Jonathan did not implement the report. Akinyemi stressed that Nigeria has never tried or punished electoral offenders, adding that even without the Uwais Report, there are laws in the nation’s Criminal Code against hooliganism, and against conducts likely to cause a breach of the peace. He said; “you want to tell me that because it is election time you can break somebody’s head and you would not be charged to court, is that not assault? You don’t need electoral tribunal to prosecute people, who cause harm or grievous bodily harm. I was listening to a commissioner of police in one of our states recently, who mentioned the number of people they have caught and the offences they committed and he never made any reference to the offences being committed during the election. “He said that they would be charged to court as soon as they complete their investigations. I do hope that this would happen, but the International Criminal Court (ICC) is there to deal with offences that bother on stet of election violence, agitation against groups, and this has been used in Cote D’Ivoire, so we should be careful of that.”