The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden, to exercise his powers “pursuant to the Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 and the Immigration and Nationality Act to ban Nigerian officials, politicians and other perpetrators and sponsors of violence during the just concluded elections.”
SERAP also urged Biden to “use the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to block or revoke the visas of anyone suspected to be responsible for cases of intimidation, harassment and violence during the elections, and to impose asset freezes and property sanctions on them and their families.”
The letter followed reports of cases of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence in several states of the country, including Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Gombe, Lagos, Edo, Ogun, Osun, Rivers and Taraba States, and Abuja.
In the letter dated February 25, 2023 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The imposition targeted sanctions against suspected perpetrators and sponsors of election-related violence in Nigeria would promote accountability, end impunity, and deter human rights violations.”
SERAP said: “Applying the presidential proclamations, Global Magnitsky Act, and Immigration and Nationality Act as recommended would be very helpful to the efforts to stop further violence before, during and after elections, facilitate free and fair elections, and encourage the people to exercise their right to vote.”
The letter read in part: “The recommended travel bans, asset freezes and property sanctions should also cover anyone who may perpetrate and sponsor violence and human rights crimes during the postponed elections in 141 polling units, and the governorship elections scheduled for March 2023.
“SERAP welcomes your government’s publicly expressed commitment to impose visa restrictions on officials, politicians and other perpetrators and sponsors of election-related intimidation, harassment, and violence. We urge you to include asset freezes and property sanctions on the list.
“Giving serious consideration to our recommendations and promptly implementing them would give meaning to this commitment, and demonstrate the willingness of your government to support and strengthen democracy, citizens’ participation and the rule of law, as well as end a culture of election-related violence in Nigeria.
“SERAP notes that presidential proclamations 7750 and 8697 underscore the US ‘enduring commitment to respect for human rights and humanitarian law’, which requires that its Government be able to ensure that the US does not become a safe haven for suspected violators of human rights, including election-related intimidation, harassment and violence.
“The proclamations also aim to help the US authorities to secure peace, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, and strengthen democracies around the globe.
“Significantly, the presidential proclamations underscore that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict the international travel and to suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or non-immigrants, of certain persons who are suspected to be involved in serious violations of human rights.
“Under Section 212(a)(3)C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, officials and politicians and other suspected perpetrators and sponsors of election-related violence will be found ineligible for visas to the United States under a policy to restrict visas of those who directly or indirectly undermine democracy in Nigeria.
“Under these provisions, certain family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Additional persons who undermine the democratic process in Nigeria—including before, during and after the elections which took place on 25 February 2023 may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy.
“SERAP urges you to apply the presidential proclamations, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act as instruments of foreign policy to promote targeted sanctions against officials, politicians and other suspected perpetrators and sponsors of election violence.
“Applying these instruments would also end election-related intimidation, harassment and violence, and facilitate equivalent visa bans, asset freezes and property sanctions in other globally desirable locations as well.
“Proactive initiatives by your government to protect democracy, citizens’ right to political participation and the rule of law in Nigeria would invariably be in the best long-term interests of the US. Such initiatives would also be entirely consistent with the US international obligations.
“Such sanctions would not violate due process and presumption of innocence principles, as long as the reasons for the sanctions are communicated to those that may be affected. The imposition of travel bans, asset freezes and property sanctions is a preventive and not punitive measure.
“According to our information, the Presidential and National Assembly elections which took place today across the country were characterized by cases of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence in many states. There are reports of loss of lives, injuries and disruption of the voting process in many states.
“Armed thugs also disrupted elections in several states of the country including in Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Gombe, Lagos, Edo, Ogun, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba states, and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Armed thugs snatched ballot boxes, took away election materials, broke chairs and dispersed voters in several areas of in Kogi State, including in Anyigba Dekina towns. Thugs also reportedly attacked polling units in polling units in Niger, Delta and Katsina states, stealing at least eight BVAS machines.
“Presidential and national assembly elections were postponed in 141 polling units in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State because of incidents of election-related intimidation, harassment and violence.
“A pregnant woman identified as Ruth Osah, and a member of a local security outfit, Mark Orduize, were allegedly killed at a polling unit in the Ubimini community, Emuoha Local Government Area of Rivers State. One person was reportedly killed in Taraba State.
“Armed thugs also injured two voters in Akwa Ibom State before carting away a Bi-Modal Voter Accreditation Machine System machine for units 11 and 12 at the Oniong West Ward I in the Onna Local Government Area of the state.
“Thugs also reportedly snatched ballot boxes and voting materials at the Oredo Ward 4 Unit 42 on Butcher Street, Benin, Edo State, and chased away the polling officials. Political thugs also destroyed 24 ballot boxes in at least eight polling units in Abuja.
“On Dipolubi Street in the Surulere area of Lagos, a woman, Efidi Bina Jennifer, was allegedly stabbed by thugs at the polling unit. A polling unit outside the Oba Elegushi Palace at Ikate in Eti-Osa, Lekki, was also reportedly attacked by thugs, who carted away ballot boxes and chased away electoral officers.”