A Week in Nigeria: 10 February

Highlights from Reuters coverage of Nigeria over the last seven days

In this week’s round-up: The story behind Atiku’s U.S. trip, a warning about body bags and our beginner’s guide to the election.

We reported on the manoeuvres involved in main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar gaining entry to the United States
  • With the election just a matter of days away, we reported that Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar visited Washington last month to meet top U.S. diplomats and lawmakers thanks to a temporary suspension of a travel ban linked to decade-old bribery scandals. Several U.S. diplomats and others familiar with the visit told Reuters the former vice president has been banned from entering the United States for several years after he figured prominently in two corruption cases. This is significant because Atiku’s supporters, keen to distance the candidate from longstanding corruption allegations, had argued that the fact he was able to visit Washington on Jan. 17 and 18 without being arrested was proof that the claims were baseless. In an interesting vignette from the whirlwind trip, it emerged that Atiku stayed at the Trump International Hotel, owned by the U.S. president. Atiku’s supporters say they chose the hotel because they were able to book rooms at a discounted rate with only a few days’ notice. “I think it was because of the availability of the space,” said an official from the U.S. chapter of Atiku’s party.
  • As part of our series of feature stories in the build-up to the vote, our TV team looked at Nigerian musicians hoping to strike a chord with young voters.
  • Nasir El-Rufai, a key ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, said people from overseas who sought to intervene in the country’s 16 February election would go back in body bags. El-Rufai, governor of northern Kaduna state, said: “We are waiting for the person who will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country.” He made the comments during a discussion programme on the Nigerian Television Authority when the topic of the international community’s role in elections was raised. It followed an international outcry over the suspension of Nigeria’s top judge. The discussion about the role of foreign countries in elections was raised on the programme in which reference was made to concerns expressed by the European Union, the United States and Britain over the suspension of Nigeria’s most senior judge over allegedly breaching asset-declaration rules.
  • El-Rufai’s remarks were condemned by the main opposition party and he dominated the front pages the following day.

And the EU election observation mission responded in a series of tweets.

Nigeria bureau chief for Reuters. Ghanaian family, British accent. Ex-BBC, before that newspapers.

Nigeria bureau chief for Reuters. Ghanaian family, British accent. Ex-BBC, before that newspapers.