US spending roughly $25m to foster credible elections in Nigeria, says envoy

Mary Beth Leonard, United States ambassador to Nigeria, says her country, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided over $25 million in support for the forthcoming elections in Nigeria.

Speaking on Wednesday at a press briefing in Abuja, Leonard said the US has no preferred candidate and will favour none.

She clarified that the US is only supporting Nigeria in achieving a credible and peaceful election.

“I think the Nigerian people should be proud of their country as they are going to the polls. When you look at the political landscape in Africa, there are many leaders pursuing extra terms or there are coups. Here in Nigeria, there has been a peaceful transfer of power which is part of the widely accepted political culture,” Leonard said.

“For the US, I will reiterate that we don’t support any candidate. We only support the process and we want that process to be transparent, credible, and peaceful.

“Nigerians are going to this election with some advantages due to the recent electoral act which provides a lot of comfort. The BVAS, the electronic transfer of results, I think it can give Nigerian voters a sense of extra comfort that votes are properly counted.

“On support, we are more involved in democracy and governance programmes in Nigeria and we are spending roughly $25 million through USAID for particular reference to this forthcoming election. And we are doing many things.

“We are sponsoring an independent electoral observation machine with some very high-powered participants including the former president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, as well as senior US veterans of African affairs and development.

“We have done a lot of work with INEC, especially on the technical aspect. We have trained some 1,800 technical workers on how to troubleshoot the BVAS and those people have in turn trained hundreds of thousands of people. So, on election day, if there’s a technical issue, there are people around to give technical support.

“We have also done a lot trying to facilitate diversity in the election.”

The envoy added that the US will continue to impose visa restrictions on anyone found guilty of undermining Nigeria’s electoral process.

“There has never been a list published. The United States has reiterated about three weeks ago that we are prepared to impose visa sanctions on people undermining the democratic process in Nigeria through violence, intimidation, and trying to influence judicial processes or others that can impede the democratic process,” she said.

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