In a statement made available to our correspondent on Wednesday, its observers deployed to six states observed the timely opening of polling units and the improved Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the INEC Results Viewing portal as against the Presidential and National Assembly elections on February 25.
The statement reads in part “The British High Commission observed the gubernatorial elections on 18 March, sending teams to Benue, Enugu, Kano, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers States.
“We observed improvements in 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 were uploaded in real-time from polling units and collation centres. These are positive markers to build on for future elections.”
The Commission, however, expressed concern over the increased violence, vote-buying, voter intimidation and suppression which marred the March 18 elections.
The statement read “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.”
The UK also threatened to sanction perpetrators, calling on aggrieved parties to seek legal redress.
It said, “The UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell MP, said on 21 February, that the UK is prepared to take action against those who engage in or incite electoral violence and other anti-democratic behaviours, and action could include preventing people from obtaining UK visas or imposing sanctions under our human rights sanctions regime. We can confirm that we are 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.”