The United Kingdom (UK), yesterday, said it has placed no fewer than 10 Nigerians on its visa ban watchlist for alleged ethnic profiling and undermining democracy during the just concluded general elections.
British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, who spoke in an interview with Nigeria Info FM, yesterday, deplored the attacks and anti-Igbo messages deployed by some politicians especially in Lagos State to scare away voters from the Southeast saying it was unacceptable.
He said many mega cities around the world have recorded huge strides because of their diversity of human capital and that attacking and preventing non-indigenes from actively participating in the political process would only impede the growth of Lagos State.
The envoy, however, declined to name those already penciled down by the UK government, saying the list was growing to accommodate more culprits.
“We watched very closely. We have a list, we are working through our list but we don’t publish those names. I know people say we should, but we have laws, and the law prevents us from doing that. We said we will do this and we will do this. And we are gathering the kind of information that will enable us do this, on specific individuals. At the moment the list is between 5 and 10 and it is growing.”
The United States had also imposed visa bans on certain individuals in Nigeria who were deemed to be undermining democracy.
After winning his re-election bid as governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu called for unity in the state and condemned attacks fuelled by ethnic discord.
He said elections should be based on competence and experience rather than ethnicity or religion, adding that the “true Lagos spirit” is a welcoming and liberal.
But the UK envoy said: “If you live in London, you are a Londoner, a British-Pakistan, is a Londoner. The British Prime Minister lives in London. My boss, the British foreign Secretary is clearly British-Sierra Leone and lives in London, they are Londoners. Why is it that people who pay taxes, who work, who provide teachers, who built businesses, who create jobs, who live in Lagos, who happen to be from a different ethnicity to some other people are not Lagosians? Of course, they are. The strength of Lagos is its diversity, and if Lagos can’t be that kind of cosmopolitan melting pot of culture and language and all the things it should be, then really how is Lagos going to succeed?
“People chanting anti-Igbo messages and walking on the streets by polling units on elections day is totally unacceptable. Not just in Lagos, but also in Enugu and Rivers were we had our teams as well and many other places. It was a very much tougher day for voters which shouldn’t be. But we saw people vote in spite of that, which is truly impressive about the elections.
“I think the right question to people who have been driving these ethnic kind of languages would be, when you go to cities around the world like London, what do you see when you see the success of those places? Because the success of those places are not built upon division but upon unity.
“I think that people who are still using that kind of language should stop, and the party they represent should be saying to them ‘stop now, this is not in our name and you are wrong’.”
He also expressed displeasure over controversial comments made by Femi Fani-Kayode, former minister of aviation and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
When asked if there were triggers of violence leading up from the campaign to the election, the UK envoy said he was puzzled as to why Fani-Kayode would make such statements, adding that the APC should have distanced itself from the former minister’s utterances.
“Yes, let’s be specific, there were some people, like Femi Fani-Kayode, what is he saying and why is he saying it? I don’t understand,” Llewellyn-Jones said.
“It is wrong from my perspective that he will speak on behalf of a party and that party does not distance itself from him and say stop doing that. It is wrong to say that.
“To me it is really important, people who have said I am part of a party’s press and media campaign, well, the party itself should say no you are not, and you should stop and we do not agree. I know that some leaders very clearly said we are about unity, and that is good, I encourage that.
“The problem is if you get the other people over here, who are very clearly associated with the party and giving you another message, and there isn’t any kind of calling out of that, what would you take from that as a voter?”