Ahead of Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary polls, the UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, has explicitly warned Nigerian politicians against inciting violence, stating that those found guilty will be subject to a visa ban and seizure of foreign assets.
Backstory: The High Commissioner made this known, while speaking at a press conference to unveil the new Election Situation Room set up by the coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Abuja on Wednesday.
Trying to avoid accusations of being partisan, Laing said, “We will apply this absolutely across board, not directed to any particular party, so we are monitoring and looking out for hate speech.”
However, the High Commissioner stated that they had recorded several instances where hate speech had been used during the campaign season.
“Out two worries are on security, not just on the role the Police will play to ensure peace, but about the role individuals play by getting angry or militias being paid to disrupt elections,” Laing said.
Acknowledging the important role CSOs play in ensuring fair and peaceful elections, Laing said, “Another worry is fake news, that is why we rely on CSOs and we will work with them to get information.”
She also reminded political parties, that outside the threat of a visa ban and property seizure, they could face prosecution if they are found guilty.
Bottom Line: It is great to see that despite the concerted attempts by officials of the ruling party to gag foreign officials from commenting on the polls, it has not deterred people like Laing and her American counterpart. Considering the violent rhetoric from politicians like Nasir El-Rufai and Rotimi Amaechi in recent days, the warning couldn’t be timelier.