Embassies may deny visa to perpetrators of violence in Rivers State
Foreign embassies may from henceforth deny visas to politicians who engage in electoral violence and fraudulent elections in Rivers State. Convener of Initiative for Credible Elections (ICE) in Rivers State and former President of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, gave the hint at a stakeholders’ meeting in Port Harcourt yesterday.
He explained that ICE which comprises of activists and other volunteers have approached embassies in Nigeria to deny visa to any Rivers State politicians who encourage electoral violence and fraudulent practices during elections.He noted that the international community has keen interest in Rivers State and will sanction any erring politicians and their families.
Mitee pointed out that elections represent the modern and universally accepted process through which individuals are openly and democratically chosen by the people to represent them in government.He, however, lamented that elections in recent past in Rivers State have been characterised by electoral fraud associated with political tensions, crisis and frightening level of violence.
As a result of this, he argued that election results have more or less been the subversion of the democratic process rather than its consolidation, especially in Rivers State.Mitee, therefore, cautioned that the growing political tension in the state, which often translates to election violence, reinforces the perception of insecurity, which scares away businesses and deprives Rivers State youths of employment opportunities.
He added that Rivers State, which has enormous advantages that should make it the preferred investment destination, has seen several businesses move to other states because of the growing perception of the state being a theatre of violence due to the type of violent elections witnessed in the state.
Also, former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Baritor Lenu Kpagih, has warned that it would be impossible for INEC to guarantee credible elections in Rivers and other parts of the country if the environment was not conducive.
Kpagih who served as REC in Delta, Bayelsa and Osun states said only the citizens could hold INEC to account for the conduct of elections, while stakeholders should ensure the prevalence of the right environment for free and credible elections.
He noted that in recent past, there has been voter apathy in Rivers State because the people have lost confidence in the electoral process, which had always been marred by violence and blatant fraud. According to him, Rivers State was the only state in the country where all electable seats in the 2015 elections were challenged in court.
A university teacher, Dr. Sofiri Peterside, said the ICE was determined to check the scourge of violent and fraudulent elections in the state, adding that ICE was conceived as a grassroots movement of citizens and residents to tackle the menace of electoral violence and fraudulent elections in the state.