The February 25 election, which will decide Nigeria’s president, comes amid inflation and widespread insecurity.

The US said it was restricting entry to people “believed to be responsible for or complicit in the undermining of democracy in Nigeria,” before that country elections this year.

Wednesday’s announcement also extends to families of those accused of anti-democratic efforts, according to the US State Department. Nigeria’s elections on February 25 will determine who replaces President Muhammadu Buhari, who has reached the two-term limit in the country after serving eight years in office.

“Additional individuals who undermine Nigeria’s democratic process — including in the run-up to, during, and after the 2023 Nigerian elections — may be ineligible to obtain visas for the United States under this policy,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

The vote in Nigeria, Africa’s largest and most populous economy, comes as the country grapples with widespread insecurity, with the Electoral Commission itself targeted by recent violence.

Earlier this month, Nigerian police repelled attacks on the offices of the Election Commission in the southeastern state of Enugu. In December, five people were killed in three attacks on offices in the southeastern state of Imo.

However, officials said the election will not be delayed.

Meanwhile, high inflation has caused economic hardship in the country, which is one of the factors mentioned in A lunges; Last year, young people registered to vote.

In a statement on Wednesday, Blinken said the decision to impose visa restrictions “reflects the United States’ commitment to support Nigeria’s aspirations to fight corruption and advance democracy and the rule of law.”

This announcement follows recent commitments from US President Joe Biden’s administration to strengthen relations with countries across the African continent. In December, Biden hosted his second-ever party US-Africa Leaders SummitWashington forged a host of new partnerships during the talks and pledged greater investment on the continent.

And US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen She is currently touring three countries across Africa, stopping on Wednesday in Pretoria, South Africa.

Blinken’s statement on Wednesday made clear that the restrictions target “specific individuals and are not directed against the Nigerian people or the Government of Nigeria.”

The announcement did not mention any specific goals for the new policy.

Eighteen candidates will vie for Nigeria’s presidency, early polls show Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the Progressive Congress Party (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) are the two most likely contenders in a country long dominated by both parties.

Peter Obi, the Labor Party candidate who has focused on fighting corruption in his election campaign, is also considered an A frontrunner.

Nigeria’s elections have long been dogged by accusations of voter fraud, though officials have vowed that 2023 will be different. They pinned that pledge on new technology intended to prevent repeat voting, as well as measures intended to stifle vote-buying.

Opinion polls in February will also determine the composition of the National Assembly.

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