he UK Government has listed its observations during the March 18 Governorship and House of Assembly elections across Benue, Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers states.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by Atinuke Akande-Alegbe, Senior Communications and Public Diplomacy Officer at the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, British High Commission, on Wednesday.
It said that a team was sent out by the British High Commission to observe the elections.
According to the Commission, they observed improvements around elections logistics by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) during the governorship elections, particularly when compared to the presidential elections.
It said 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.
It said these were positive markers to build on for future elections.
The commission, however, said there were notable points of concern, adding that members of the observation mission personally noticed 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, voter intimidation, 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 are crucial for a healthy democracy, and journalists must be able to go about their work without being threatened,” it said.
The commission said that the UK was concerned by the use of inflammatory ethno-religious language by some public and political figures.
The UK called 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.
The commission said it was a testament to their commitment to democracy that many Nigerians were prepared to vote in spite of being faced with intimidation and hostility.
The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, was quoted as saying on Feb. 21 that the UK was prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours.
Mitchell said the action could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under their human rights sanctions regime.
The UK minister said there was confirmation of collating relevant information, with a view to taking action against some individuals.
“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 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,” the commission said.