The Kogi government has protested against the visa ban imposed on some politicians who allegedly rigged the last governorship election in the state by the US.
On Monday, the US announced that it had imposed visa restrictions on some individuals for their actions during the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
Although the identities of those affected by the visa ban were not disclosed, Yahaya Bello, governor of Kogi, is speculated to have been affected. But we could not verify this.
Bello was re-elected in an election that was reported to have been marred by violence and irregularities in November 2019.
In a letter dated September 16 and addressed to the US ambassador to Nigeria, Folashade Ayoade, secretary to the Kogi government, said though the election in the state was not without challenges, the “regrettable incidents” were only limited to a few polling units.
Ayoade said those who had issues with the election went through all the levels of the court, and the apex court held that the poll “satisfactorily” complied with the Nigerian constitution and the electoral Act.
“Please note that for the purposes of this protest letter we are only interested in the citations to the extent that they are referable to Kogi state and her citizens,” she said.
“For the most part, we concede that elections in Nigeria are complex affairs which will continue to require improvements for the foreseeable future.
“The 2019 Kogi state gubernatorial election was also not without its challenges. However, it is also crystal clear from critical and composite analyses of the records (official, media, observers, etc) of the November 16, 2020 polls that regrettable incidents were limited to a few polling units, while the overwhelmingly larger portions of the ballot were free, fair and credible.
“Further, and in line with Nigerian law, the few political parties and individuals who alleged widespread electoral malpractices had free rein to contest the outcome in court. They vigorously litigated their claims over a grueling 9-month period, through a 3-step hierarchy of courts, to the inescapable conclusion at the Supreme Court of Nigeria that the said elections satisfactorily complied with the Nigerian constitution and the electoral act.
“Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered, but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your Press Statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.
“For the February and March 2019 General elections, your advisory came out in July 2019, long before the supreme court delivered her judgments in the petitions against those elections, including challenges to President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection.
“The presumption is that in spite of your intervention, the supreme court still discovered no merit in the petitions and dismissed them accordingly.”
The secretary to the Kogi government said the ban is unacceptable and that the state government protests the US “presumption”.
“We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed, is create room, no matter how slim, for fair hearing,” she said.
“As it is now, partisan speculation as to who is indicted, who is not and for what, has become cudgels, furiously swung in the media space by all comers. Your action has therefore added abundant grist to the rumour mills and electrified the merchants of fake news.
“Let it be noted that we are not challenging your visa bans in any way, whoever they may affect and for how long, but we do register the strongest protest possible as a State to the collateral and unwarranted interference in our political and social processes which it represents.”