…As INEC urges traditional rulers, religious leaders to caution youths, over Ondo polls***
The United Kingdom (UK) says it respects absolutely the sovereignty of the Nigerian Government, but also has the right, to determine who to enter her country or not.
Ms Catriona Laing, British High Commissioner to Nigeria, made this remark during an orientation programme for people with disability, seeking Chevening scholarship opportunities in the UK, on Thursday in Abuja.
This is also coming following the response of the Nigerian government that it considers it disrespectful to the sovereignty of Nigeria, for any outside authority to judge the conduct of its citizens and apply punitive measures such as visa restriction.
Recall that the governments of the United States of America and the UK announced visa imposition on anyone who constitutes violence and undermines electoral processes in the Edo and Ondo States elections.
Laing, however, said that the UK welcomed the fact that the Nigerian Government was following up on any violence, commending the peaceful conduct of the Sept. 19 elections in Edo.
She further said that the issue of visa restriction on perpetrators of electoral violence was the UK’s visa policy
The high commissioner added that the Government of the UK could determine who travels to the country.
“It is our visa policy, the UK and we can determine who comes to the UK.
“So, that is a non-sovereign right.
“And all we are saying is that in line with Nigerian policy, that those who commit violence or who incite violence, there may be an implication for that person when they apply for a visa to the UK.
“So, I think it is actually completely consistent with the Nigerian policy.
“This is our visa policy, but obviously, it is for Nigeria to determine how they deal with these perpetrators in Nigeria,’’ Laing said.
Responding on if the UK would heed the Nigerian Government’s response and drop such plans of imposing a visa ban on the individuals, Laing said she was surprised with the response of the government.
She recalled that prior to the 2019 general election, the Nigerian Government welcomed its policy.
On the award of Chevening scholarship to Nigerians, Laing said that many Nigerians had benefited from the programme over the years, putting the numbers in thousands.
“Because the programme has been running for a long time and in this year, we are sending 49,’’ Laing stated.
In the meantime, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday urged traditional rulers and religious leaders to caution the youth against violence to ensure a peaceful governorship election on Oct. 10 in Ondo State.
Mr Adekunle Ogunmola, National Commissioner/Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee, INEC, Abuja, said this at the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) sensitisation workshop for religious/community leaders and youth associations in Akure.
Ogunmola stated that the workshop was organised in collaboration with the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES).
He noted that the commission was to strengthen the capacity of the traditional rulers to effectively resolve disputes and build public trust.
Ogunmola said that INEC was committed to conducting free and fair elections in Ondo State, hence the need to engage religious and community leaders, including presidents of youth associations from selected local government areas in the state.
According to him, the commission is expecting all the leaders to be peace advocates, preaching messages of peace and harmonious living to the people.
“As religious leaders, you are role models, and your followers look up to you for direction, guidance and mentoring.
“Also, you are custodians of customs and traditions of your subjects, comprising all classes of people, including the youth who are in active politics.
“Your role as royal fathers or community leaders is very important in influencing positive conducts of your subjects, in promoting peaceful elections which we are yearning for.
“The influence you have on your subjects and followers is strategic to the electoral process. We are optimistic that your positive impacts on the elecrorate cannot be overemphasised.
“The commission, therefore, implores you to use your influence in your various communities to ensure a conducive atmosphere for the conduct of free, fair and credible governorship elections come Oct. 10.”
Ogunmola called on all the youth presidents to advocate peace among themselves before, during and after the elections.
“As youth presidents, you have large followership of able-bodied young men, who may channel their energies in disruptive ventures if not properly directed.
“In view of the above, you are our Peace Ambassadors in whom we are confident, that you will impact positively on your members,” he said.
Mr Hamza Fassi-Fihri, ECES Project Coordinator, described the community and religious leaders as better placed to mediate in electoral disputes among political actors, especially at the grassroots.
“Community and religious leaders have the goodwill and credibility to serve as mediators in the ADR process.
“It is our expectations that the experience to be gained at this workshop will improve their competence to play this peacemaking role,” he said.