GOVERNOR Yahaya Bello of Kogi State has written to the US government objecting the recent visa ban imposed on him over his alleged role in irregularities in the recent gubernatorial elections asking that the restrictions be lifted.
Earlier this week, the US government imposed visa restrictions on several politicians who masterminded violence and rigging of the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States. Governor Bello was on the list and as such is barred from visiting the US while the ban remains in place.
In response the state government has written to the US ambassador to Nigeria signed by the secretary to the Kogi State government Folashade Ayoade, Governor Bello, said the Americans should have created room no matter how slim, for a fair hearing. He added 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.
His letter read: “The Kogi State government became aware of a United States government list of individuals who received 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. 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 and 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 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. Our concern right now is not the prerogative of the United States of America to impose entry restrictions on anyone, for any or no reason at all, which prerogative remains unfettered but the room for atrocious misinformation which the timing of your press statement and the mention of the Kogi elections therein has created in our state.
“In our case, you made the tactical decision to release the update shortly after the Supreme Court delivered judgments in the four petitions which made it before her. Among a plethora of well-reasoned pronouncements the apex court dismissed the said petitions for failing to prove their allegations and for having no scintilla of merit bit the inference from your timing is that the judgment is somehow tainted and did not meet the justice of the case, thereby casting aspersions, not only on the Nigerian judiciary but on the second term mandate freely bestowed on His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello by the good people of Kogi State.
“We find this unacceptable, and we protest your presumption. The least you could have done, if indeed this is about democracy and human rights as claimed is create room, no matter how slim, for a fair hearing.”
Governor Bello further noted that other players in the state, including candidates and officials of opposition political parties which lost the elections and could not prove their allegations in court have now latched onto the US visa ban, holding media conferences and making press releases, claiming that the United States has justified their wild allegations and conspiracy theories where the courts and the administrative quarters failed. He stressed that he is not only challenging the visa ban but was registering the strongest protest to the collateral and unwarranted interference it Kogi State’s political and social processes which it represents.