A team of European Union election observers on Wednesday reacted to a statement by Governor Nasir El-Rufai that Nigerian forces would kill any foreign soldiers who intervene in Nigeria’s elections.
The EU team said the threat would not deter it from observing the general elections set to hold on February 16 and March 2.
The team, however, said it would continue to review its security arrangements before, during and after the elections.
“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.
“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.
“For the last month the mission’s team in Abuja, as well as 40 long-term observers across the country, have followed the elections. We have met with a wide range of candidates, parties, election officials, security agencies, and civil society organisations, and have enjoyed good cooperation at federal and state levels.
“The mission looks 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 statement by the team’s Sarah Fradgley read in full.
Mr El-Rufai’s controversial comments were made during an appearance on Nigerian Television Authority Tuesday night.
“Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags,” Mr El-Rufai said.
The governor argued that Nigeria’s sovereignty was sacrosanct and the country also respects other nation’s sovereignty. He said Nigeria only intervened militarily in other countries (Liberia and Sierra Leone) when it had international mandate to do so. In another statement on Wednesday, Mr El-Rufai tried to clarify his statement saying he was only trying to vigorously defend Nigeria’s territory and did not call for violence against foreign countries.
The governor’s statement has been criticised by many Nigerians, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party mentioned it as a reason for threatening to pull out of a peace accord.
Last month, presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu said Nigeria would raise its forces against any military intervention. Mr Shehu stated this after the United States, United Kingdom and the EU criticised the unconstitutional suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen.