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VISA BAN: Kogi govt kicks against restriction, says US didn’t create room for fair hearing

Kogi governor sacks 21 local councils’ administrators

The Kogi State government has expressed its displeasure over the recent visa ban imposed on politicians in Nigeria by the United States of America over their alleged rigging of the November 2019 election in the state.

Governor Bello reacted to the ban in a letter addressed to the Ambassador of the United States of America signed by the Secretary to the Government of Kogi State, Mrs Folashade Arike Ayoade which was made available to the media on Friday.

In the letter, Governor Bello slammed the visa restriction by the US government which also applies to politicians who rigged the last Bayelsa State election as well as the run-up to the September and October 2020 Edo and Ondo governorship polls.

According to him, the US should have created room, no matter how slim for a fair hearing before imposing the ban on the affected politicians.

In the letter titled, “Re: Visa Restrictions On Individuals And Inclusion Of The 2019 Kogi State Gubernatorial Elections In US State Department List Of Allegedly Compromised Elections – A Letter Of Protest”, Kogi State Government also urged the US to accord greater empathy, more civility and much less disruption to nascent democracies.

The letter by the Kogi State government read thus in part, “The Kogi State Government became aware of a United States Government list of individuals who received US visa restrictions for alleged electoral malpractices via a Press Statement to that effect posted on your Embassy website.

“In your own words, the still-unnamed individuals are cited as guilty of ‘acts of violence, intimidation, or corruption that harmed Nigerians and undermined the democratic process.’ They are also alleged to ‘have operated with impunity at the expense of the Nigerian people and undermined democratic principles and human rights.

READ ALSO: Nigeria, US meet over visa restriction on some Nigerians

“You also noted in the statement that the sanctions are derived from unspecified misconducts by the said individuals which extend from the February/March 2019 General Elections in Nigeria through the off-cycle November 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa to the as yet unheld governorship contests in Edo and Ondo States. 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.

“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.”

Governor Bello maintained that 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.

According to him, 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.

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