Mary Leonard, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, has talked about the 2023 Nigerian elections.
Leonard, on Wednesday, reiterated her country’s support for transparent and credible elections that reflect the will of the people, adding that the US will favour no candidate in the coming elections.
This is coming 24 days before the presidential election which is contested by candidates of 18 political parties.
She also declared the country would not influence or favour any candidate vying for the topmost position.
Leonard, who spoke during a one-day multi-stakeholders dialogue titled, ‘Nigeria’s 2023 Elections: Fostering Youth action for peace and stability’, in Abuja, stated that the elections presented an opportunity for Nigeria to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa.
The programme, held in collaboration with the National Orientation Agency and Building Blocks for Peace Foundation, was to scale up conversations to ensure inclusivity.
She said, “First, let me start by sharing with you as I’ve shared with other Nigerian groups, my government’s view on the upcoming elections in Nigeria. The United States supports transparent and credible elections that reflect the will of the people in a process that is conducted peacefully.
“The 2023 elections are a pivotal opportunity for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy, to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa. Elections are the foundation of democracy and the basis for the legitimate transfer of power.
“We favour no candidate. We favour only an open, transparent and peaceful electoral process.”
Speaking further, Leonard stated the US had provided $25 million as part of elections-related support to Nigeria, while expressing confidence in the electoral umpire to conduct credible and transparent elections.
“Through USAID, the US is providing $25 million in elections-related support to Nigeria for the 2023 election cycle.
“The United States has full confidence in INEC and its ability to organise and conduct credible and transparent elections.
“We saw INEC’s capabilities on display during the success of the recent off-cycle elections in Ekiti and Osun states and we look forward to seeing that success extended nationwide during the February and March general elections.”
Continuing, she stressed her resolve to place visa restrictions on individuals who undermine the electoral process.
“Individuals who undermine the democratic process in any way through intimidation and violence may be found ineligible for visas to travel to the United States.
“We took steps in the past to impose US visa restrictions against anyone complicit in undermining the electoral process. And in fact, Secretary of State Blinken announced just last week that we’re imposing sanctions to pass such behaviours.
“We will civilly deny or cancel visas for those who try to undermine the upcoming elections. These records are confidential so we won’t be able to announce the identities of those subject to the sanctions but I can tell you that I am fully aware of people who travelled to the US and whose visas were blocked,” she added.