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2023: Election Riggers, Violence Proponents Will Be Barred – U.S Consul General

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The United States Consular General (Nigeria), Mr. Will Stevens, has said that the United States government would enforce it’s policy to bar election riggers and those who engineer violence during, before and after the 2023 general election.

Stevens spoke, Friday, in Asaba Delta Capital, in a first in a series of OpenGov Town Hall meeting in the Niger Delta region organised under the auspices of the Niger-Delta Open Observatory (NOGO) cluster supported by the USAID Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project implemented by Palladium during the signing of the Open Government Manifesto by governorship candidates in the state.

Among the governorship candidates that signed the manifesto are Sunny Ofehe of  the Young Progressive Party (YPP), PDP candidate, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori (PDP), represented by Director General, Delta PDP Campaign Council, Mr. Funkekeme Solomon,  All Progressive Congress candidate and Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege represented by Dr Austin Izagbo, Labour Party candidate, Mr Ken Pela and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) Dr Goodnews Agbi.

Addressing journalists after the event, Stevens said that the U.S government will not approve visas for anyone found culpable of encouraging electoral violence or undermining the process.

Stevens said the U.S has been working with the Nigeria government as partners to support the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and civil society organizations to enable them hold candidates accountable.

He said the U.S was only interested in a free, fair and credible election that represents the Nigerian people and doesn’t have any preferred candidate or a particular political party in the 2023  general elections.

Stevens said that the US has provided nearly $50 million in technical assistance to the electoral umpire to strengthen the mechanisms that will allow Nigerians feel comfortable that their votes will count .

He said his mission to Delta state and the Southeast is pre election monitoring “to look and see how things are developing”.

His words, ” The U.S do not have a preferred candidate, full stop! We are not interested in a particular party or candidate. What we are interested in is free,fair, and credible election that represents the people.This elections are important.Nigeria is the fifth largest democracy in the world so when the people of Nigeria come to vote, you are showing the strength of democracy to the rest of the world.”

 

Stevens expressed happiness with the Electoral Act which he said “has good measures to strengthen voting security, adding that the U.S government will discourage politicians,citizens seeking to undermine the electoral process.

He described civil society groups as the muscle and sinews of democracy, stressing that ” if civil societies are strong that means democracy is functioning.”

He said, ” We in the United States will discourage any politicians,citizens ,other parties who are encouraging electoral violence or seeking to undermine the electoral process. One thing we have done in the past and continue to do is that those who seek to undermine the democratic process can and will be found ineligible for visa to the US.”

He expressed excitement about the forthcoming election, stressing that the consulate is doing all within its powers to understand what is happening and articulate such to US citizens.

“These elections are so important, Nigeria is the fifth largest democracy in the world. So when the people of Nigeria come to vote, you are showing the strength of democracy to the rest of the world.
“We are really excited about the upcoming elections, we are doing everything we can to make sure we understand what is happening and articulate to the people of US and the rest of the world,” he added.

The highpoint of the event was the signing of a commitment by some gubernatorial candidates in the Delta governorship race to a social contract with Deltans.

Executive Director of Policy Alert, Tijah Bolton-Akpan had said the project is aimed at strengthening the uptake and implementation of Open Government Partnership (OGP) in Niger Delta states.
He said the signing of the of the Open Government Manifesto by candidates symbolised their commitment to an open government agenda and their readiness to sustain ongoing governance reforms.
Akpan explained that the town hall was to give citizens a firsthand opportunity to ask questions and demand explicit commitments from governorship candidates on how they plan to implement OGP if elected, adding that similar events would subsequently hold in Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Imo, Rivers and Bayelsa states.

Fielding questions from journalists after the event, the YPP governorship candidate, Ofehe, said that signing the OGP document was not enough as his administration when elected would ensure the proactiveness needed to steer civil society in the state so that they can compete with their counterparts at the global level.

He pledged that when elected he would not only implement the OGP manifesto in the state but ensure that civil society formed the integral part of his government and policies as the fourth arms of government besides the press.

Ofehe said that he would ensure institutionalized funding for civil society organizations so that the dividends of democracy can trickle down to the downtrodden.

In the same vien, NNPP guber candidate, Agbi expressed delight over the outcome of the program, saying the commitment extracted from the governorship candidates would go a long to reassure the people that governance truly belong to them.

Funkekeme who represented the PDP guber candidate said that Delta as a state was already committed to open governance policy by ensuring accountability and transparency in award of contracts and runnings of the state government are captured in the state website which he said entails everything that would be transfer to incoming administration under the PDP government.

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