Aidoghie Paulinus in Addis Ababa
Four days to the February 16, Presidential and National Assembly elections, the Federal Government, yesterday, told the United States (US) not to cross the line as far as the elections are concerned.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, gave the Government’s position during a closed-door meeting with the Senior Director for Africa and Special Assistant to the United States President, Cyril Sartor.
The meeting was on the sidelines of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Recall that the Federal Government had accused the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union of interference in national affairs, following comments on the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Earlier, the United States and the United Kingdom had sent out a strong warning to would-be offenders during the forthcoming polls, threatening visa sections to offenders and relatives.
Speaking after the meeting, Onyeama said: “I met a representative for Africa on the US National Security Council and we discussed elections in Nigeria and I pointed out that the government was absolutely determined to have free, fair, credible and transparent elections, that Mr. President has invested in that.
“And also, that I had summoned the US Ambassador to discuss some of the utterances that have been made and some of which we felt were not helpful and that while we welcome very much the role they had played in 2015, and the role that they are continuing to play, that they should be careful not to cross the line between observing and supporting the process and appearing to be partisan and interfering in the process.”
Onyeama further said he reassured the US that President Muhammadu Buhari is determined that Nigeria had good, free and fair elections.The Foreign Affairs Minister said he also discussed with Sartor, increasing trade with the US and in particular, having greater market access to the US market.
Similarly the All Progressive Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council said it is deeply concerned about many of the expressions of the United States’ Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador W. Stuart Symington and other Western Diplomats which have been directed towards Nigeria’s upcoming elections.
A statement from the APC said: “Whilst we laud and whole-heartedly welcome their interests in the elections, many of these expressions have been notably off- key.
“The continued warnings about ‘flawed elections’ is capable of casting an unwarranted cloud over the process. Instead of encouraging our country toward credible elections, such statements undermine public confidence. It would appear that these envoys seem to have discredited the election before it has even taken place.” The statement signed by Festus Keyamo, spokesperson for Buhari campaign organisation said: “We truly hope some of the statements attributed to these diplomats are inaccurate. For instance, it was reported that Ambassador W. Stuart Symington threatened to “hold to account” anyone whose speech, no matter the motivation of that speech, engendered hatred.