The United States has again warned Nigerian political leaders of severe sanctions if their comments incite the people to violence that disrupts the smooth conduct of the general election.
Stuart Symington, the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, also warned public officials not to be deceived by politicians who may issue illegal directives to them using the name of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Mr Symington gave the warning on Thursday, February 7, 2019, in Makurdi, Benue State. He was speaking with journalists after his meeting with the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
According to a report of the encounter monitored on Channels TV, Mr Symington cautioned against taking implementing illegal directives to manipulate the elections.
He said political leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the elections this year are free and fair
“If anybody asks you to do something that is not right and says the boss wants you to do it, or the person at the top wants you to do it, don’t believe him; because the person at the top is honestly saying they want to win a fair election. There is a reason not to believe them,” the envoy said.
Although Mr Symington did not mention President Muhammadu Buhari by name, the president has repeatedly expressed his commitment to free and fair elections. He, like other top presidential candidates, also signed a peace accord, pledging his commitment to peaceful and non-violent conduct irrespective of the outcome of the elections.
On Thursday, Mr Symington advised Nigerians not to believe those who may want to compromise the electoral process. He warned that people are responsible for their own actions.
“The citizens are responsible to their God, second to their conscience and third to the laws of Nigeria, fourth to the court of public opinion in Nigeria and finally international law and the rest of us,” he said.
He said in the few days to the election, people will say things irrespective of their intentions, “either to hate or to stir up violence”.
He warned that such people would be held to account.
Mr Symington spoke two days after a statement by Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, that any military intervention in Nigeria would be resisted.
The statement made by the governor on a national television programme ignited an outcry, with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party warning it may withdraw from the peace accord the political parties signed to promote violence-free elections.
On Wednesday, the European Union election observers reacted to Mr El-Rufai’s remarks by stating that they were in Nigeria on the invitation to monitor the processes of the election and not to interfere in the affairs of the country.
Earlier last month, the US and its western allies, the United Kingdom and the European Union, gave a similar caution following the furore that greeted President Muhammadu Buhari’s suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen.