United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected in Nigeria ahead of the country’s general election, an agency report has indicated.
According to Associated Press, AP, Mr. Kerry will make a stop-over in Lagos on Sunday to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, respectively.
The meeting with the two leading candidates in the upcoming presidential election shows deep U.S. concerns about post-election violence in the country that is already devastated by Boko Haram insurgents.
Mr. Kerry’s brief visit is a departure from the U.S. policy that disallow its senior officials from visiting countries about to hold elections, to avoid the perception of supporting one candidate against another.
This is the first time a chief American diplomat is visiting the country since 2012.
State Department officials are quoted as saying that Mr. Kerry will hold separate talks with President Jonathan and his leading opponent, Mr. Buhari, a former Army general.
The secretary of state previously has paid similar visits to countries struggling with instability including Lebanon in 2009 and Iraq in 2005.
Briefing reporters Saturday, senior state department officials were quoted to have said Mr. Kerry will appeal to Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Buhari to accept the result of the Feb. 14 election and instruct their supporters to refrain from violence.
A dispute over President Jonathan’s emergence in 2011 had sparked riots in some states in Northern Nigeria that resulted in the death of people including Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano.
The country’s election is coming amid an increasing attacks and kidnappings and destruction by Boko Haram insurgents especially in North-east Nigeria.
The spokesperson for Mr. Buhari’s campaign, Garba Shehu, confirmed told PREMIUM TIMES that the APC candidate was on his way to Lagos to meet Mr. Kerry.
Contacted, the Special Adviser to Mr. Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, also confirmed his boss’ appointment with the U.S. Secretary of State.
“Senator Kerry is meeting with President Jonathan at the State House, Marina at 2pm. today,” Mr. Abati said. “That’s all I can confirm.”