The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, said on Tuesday that his government was prepared to take action against those who engaged in or incited electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours and action during the just concluded general election.
Mitchell noted that the UK and its Government remained committed to supporting credible and inclusive elections, which are fundamental to Nigeria’s continued democratic growth, and to the future of regional and global democracy.
The British High Commission in Nigeria, which disclosed this in a statement, said: “We observed improvements around election logistics by INEC during the gubernatorial elections, particularly when compared to the presidential elections.
“More polling units opened on time, there was greater evidence of BVAS and IREV working and results uploaded in real-time from polling units and collation centres. These are positive markers to build on for future elections.
“We can confirm that we are collating relevant information, with a view to taking action against some individuals.
“However, there were notable points of concern. Members of our observation mission personally observed violence, and voter suppression in numerous voting locations.
‘’We witnessed and received credible reports from other observer missions and civil society organisations of vote buying and voter intimidation, the destruction and hijacking of election materials and the general disruption of the process in numerous states, including Lagos, Enugu and Rivers.
‘’In addition, we observed incidents of harassment of journalists. Freedom of speech and a free press is crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened.
“The UK is concerned by the use of inflammatory, ethnoreligious language by some public and political figures. We call on all leaders not just to distance themselves from this kind of language, but to prevent those who speak on their behalf from doing so in this way.
“It is a testament to their commitment to democracy that many Nigerians were prepared to vote, despite being faced with intimidation and hostility.
“We urge any party or individual who wishes to challenge the process or outcome of the elections to do so peacefully and through the appropriate legal channels. We will be observing the course of legal challenges made.
“The 2023 elections are not only important to Nigeria and Nigerians but also to Africa and the world as a whole.
‘’As a long-term partner, the UK is committed to strengthening the ties between our countries and peoples, including by supporting democratic development.’’