U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Nigeria’s two leading candidates for president ahead of Saturday’s election and “underscored U.S. support for the Nigerian goal of free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections.”
Pompeo spoke by telephone Friday with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and his main challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and welcomed their pledges to accept the results of a credible election process, according to a State Department statement.
Pompeo noted the “deep and long-standing partnership” between the United States and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous democracy and the continent’s largest economy, and said the United States wants to see elections that reflect the will of the Nigerian people.
He welcomed both candidates’ signing of a peace pledge and public commitment to renounce violence, according to the State Department release.
On Friday, two diplomats and a government source said voting could be delayed in parts of the country, due to difficulties in transporting electoral materials in some areas, Reuters news service reported.
Nigerians are to vote Saturday for a president and legislature, returning two weeks later to pick state governors and local representatives.
The Independent National Electoral Commission was holding a late-night meeting and could not immediately be reached for comment.
Violence in Kaduna state
Also Friday, authorities in Nigeria’s Kaduna state reported at least 66 deaths in a wave of violence ahead of the election. State officials said the victims included 22 children.
Kaduna is an area known for its ethnic tensions, Christian-Muslim violence and election-related unrest.
Hundreds of people were killed in the region in 2011 when then-opposition candidate Buhari, a Muslim former military ruler from the north, lost to Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south.
Buhari, 76, who beat Jonathan in a rematch in 2015, is running for re-election Saturday against main challenger Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and former vice president.
Nigerian authorities increased security across much of the country on Friday ahead of the elections. Along with ongoing violence in Kaduna, Nigeria is dealing with the decade-long Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the northeast and banditry and kidnappings in the northwest.