The European Union Election Observation Mission, EU EOM, on Wednesday reacted to the warning by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, that “body bags” awaited any foreigner who might intervene in Nigeria’s general election.
In a statement issued on Wednesday EU EOM said it would not be deterred by the threat in the discharge of its duties, which it pointed out was based on invitation.
“While the security of EU observers is of paramount importance, and will remain under constant review, EU observers will continue their work across the country in the run-up to – and beyond – the 16 February elections,” it said.
The mission, stressing that it was in the country to monitor the election on invitation, and had been carrying out its duties and would continue to do so.
The statement reads further: “We are aware of the comments by the Governor of Kaduna about non-interference by foreigners during a talk show on the elections Tuesday 5 February.
“The EU only deploys an election observation mission when it is invited to do so by the authorities of a country. The EU has been invited to observe all of the general elections in Nigeria since 1999. Thus this is the sixth time the EU is observing elections in Nigeria.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission invited the EU to deploy an observation mission for the 2019 general elections.
“EU election observation missions give commentary and analysis and make recommendations about the electoral process. EU election observation missions are impartial, do not interfere in the electoral process, and operate according to a strict code of conduct.”
The mission said its team had met with a wide range of candidates, parties, election officials, security agencies, and civil society organizations in the course of carrying out its duties.
It said that it had enjoyed good cooperation at federal and state levels.
It said that in its duties, it looked at all aspects of the election, including the campaign tone, the transparency of the election administration, the neutrality of security forces, and the independence of the judiciary.
The EU EOM is not the only one angered by the statement by El-Rufai.
The leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has also expressed dismay over the statement threatening to withdraw from the peace accord it signed over the election.
El-Rufai has however defended himself, saying that he was only defending the nation’s dignity.
The Presidency has also defended the governor.
The defence is contained in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu.
Said he: “We have taken note of the clarification to a reported earlier statement by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i, concerning opposition call for foreign interference in our domestic affairs and to say that latest statements by him should rest the issue for good.
“There is nothing more to sneeze at. The governor spoke strongly in defence of national interest. It is clear that El-Rufa’i, our party the All Progressives Congress, and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections.
“They are all of the view that there is no place for violence against local people or foreign citizens in our midst.”