US sends Clinton to meet Buhari, Atiku

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…Set to buy Israeli Iron Dome missile defence system***

The United States of America has dispatched former president Bill Clinton to Nigeria to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The meeting would come a day before the presidential election slated for February 16.

Clinton is expected back to his country the same day after the meetings to allow the two contestants cast their votes.

Buhari is expected to vote in  Daura, Daura Local Government Area of Katsina State, while Atiku would cast his vote in Ganye Local Government Area of Adamawa State.

The national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, confirmed the visit: “We are aware. All what we want is credible, fair and acceptable elections. We also don’t want interference from anyone concerning the workings of INEC and the security agents.”

Last month, the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom in separate statements said they would closely monitor the activities of individuals including the security agencies and would not fail to withhold or withdraw visas of election offenders including those of their family members.

A statement from the US Embassy in Abuja read:  “We and other democratic nations, will be paying close attention to actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process or instigate violence against the civilian population before, during, or after the elections.

“We will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those found to be responsible for election-related violence or undermining the democratic process.  Under U.S. immigration law, certain violations may also lead to restrictions on family members.”

The UK government, in a statement by its High Commission in Abuja, said:  “We will be deploying an extensive observation mission for the forthcoming elections, including coordinating with the EU’s Election Observation Mission. Our monitors will in particular be looking out for any attempts to encourage or use violence to influence the elections, including on social media.

We would like to remind all Nigerians that where the UK is aware of such attempts, this may have consequences for individuals. These could include their eligibility to travel to the UK, their ability to access UK based funds or lead to prosecution under international law. The UK is a friend and partner of Nigeria.  We hope our continued support will play a role in helping Nigeria take a further step towards consolidating the progress made since democracy returned in 1999.”

In the meantime, the US military has announced plans to buy and test out Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system.

The system, which uses radar and interceptor missiles to combat incoming threats, has been in use since 2011.

The US Department of Defence has said the system will be used on a test basis, while it assesses options for the military’s long-term needs.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has labelled the sale a “great achievement for the country”.

“This is another manifestation of the deepening of our steadfast alliance with the United States, and an expression of Israel’s rising status in the world,” his statement went on.

Iron Dome works by tracking incoming short-range projectiles by radar, then analyses data about the likely impact zone – before assessing whether to provide co-ordinates to a missile firing unit to intercept.

Israeli officials claim the missile system, which works in all weather and is transportable, has a success rate of up to 90%.

It is said to be able to provide city-sized protection against incoming aerial threats and has been utilised heavily to intercept missiles filed by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip.

The system took years to develop and is produced by Israel’s state-run defence firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems.

The US has already heavily subsidised the system’s creation, and some of its components already come from American firms.

In a statement, Israel’s Military of Defence said the purchase was made because of the “immediate needs” of the US army.

Reports emerged in defence media about the rumoured sale last month.

US Army Colonel Patrick Seiber has said the system would be “assessed and experimented” with to protect deployed US personnel on a test basis only.

“While Iron Dome has been in operational use by the Israeli Air Force since 2011 and proven effective in combat, it should be noted that the US army will assess a variety of options for its long-term IFPC (Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment) solution,” a statement released on Wednesday said.

The Sun with additional report from BBC