President Donald Trump arrives UN General Assembly in New York. Monday, 24 September 2018. Photo: Emmanuel Ikodor, TODAY NEWS AFRICA

The United States government on Thursday called for “a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful election” in Nigeria that reflects “the will of the Nigerian people”.

“It is critical that the Independent National Electoral Commission operates free from outside pressure and intimidation and in a totally objective manner,” the U.S. Department of State said in a statement sent to TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington D.C.

“Nigerian security services must provide a safe and secure environment for the Nigerian people to exercise their rights. Those who interfere in the electoral process or incite violence must be held to account,” the Trump administration added in the statement by Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

It described the upcoming elections as “an opportunity for Nigeria to solidify its place as a democratic leader in Africa”.

Nigerians go to the polls from February 16 to elect a new President, a new National Assembly and fill states and local governments’ seats.

For the presidency, although there are more than 30 candidates, the real contest seems to be between President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party.

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