The United States, US, government has threatened to withhold visas from anyone found guilty of inciting electoral violence or disrupting the 2023 process, but adamantly denying that it has a favoured candidate or political party for the general elections in Nigeria that year.
This was said in Asaba, Delta State, at the first of a series of OpenGov Town Hall meetings in the Niger Delta region, which were organized under the sponsorship of the Niger-Delta Open Observatory, NOGO, cluster and funded by the USAID Strengthening Civic Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE) project carried out by Palladium.
Stevens praised the Electoral Act, which he stated contains effective safeguards to increase voting security, and said that the American government was solely interested in impartial polls that accurately reflect the populace.
He said: “The US 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.
“These elections are important.
Nigeria is the fifth-largest democracy in the world, so when its citizens turn out to vote, the rest of the world sees the power of democracy.
In order to enable the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, and civil society organizations to hold candidates accountable, he claimed that the US has been cooperating with the Nigerian government as partners.
Stevens also revealed that the US has given the electoral arbiter about $50 million in technical support to bolster the systems that will give Nigerians confidence that their ballots will be counted.
“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 said.
Stevens said that his visit to the South-East and Delta Status was part of a pre-election monitoring mission to gauge the state of affairs. The consulate, he continued, is exerting every effort to comprehend what is taking place and explain it to US people.
The signing of a social contract with Deltans by some of the candidates for governor of the Delta was the highlight of the occasion.
Gubernatorial candidate of the PDP candididate, Rt Hon Sheriff Oborevwori, represented by Director General, Delta PDP Campaign Council, Mr. Funkekeme Solomon, gubernatorial candidate of the APC, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, represented by Dr Austin Izagbo, and Mr Sunny Ofehe of Young People’s Party, YPP were among governorship candidates that signed the manifesto.
Others are Mr Kennedy Pela and Dr Goodnews Agbi, candidates of the Labour Party, LP and New Nigeria People’s Party, NNPP, respectively