The strategic communications team of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari alleges that Western diplomats are taking sides as elections draw near. File picture: Ju Peng/Xinhua

Johannesburg - The strategic communications team of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari alleges that Western diplomats are taking sides as Saturday’s forthcoming presidential elections draw near.

One of the Western diplomats specifically targeted in the criticism is US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington. But Symington has dismissed claims by the Buhari 2019 Presidential Campaign Council that his country was subtly supporting the opposition, Premium Times reported.

Festus Keyamo, director of the strategic communications team, alleged that recent statements made by diplomats showed that they were tactically supporting the opposition which is attempting to unseat Buhari.

Keyamo specifically accused Symington of interfering in the 2019 electoral processes.

”The impression Symington creates by constantly harping on suspected government interference with the electoral process is that Buhari cannot win without tipping the results. He seems to be saying that only a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) victory will be evidence of a fair election,” said an angry Keyamo.

”Instead of encouraging free and fair elections, these judgmental statements and threats only cast an unnecessary pall over the elections and the nation,” he added.

His comments follow a number of diplomats calling for the Nigerian polity to work towards a free and credible poll.

However, Symington responded to the accusations via the US Embassy website on Tuesday, saying: "We are impartial."

"The United States Embassy in Nigeria wishes to reiterate unequivocally that we are not taking sides in Nigeria's election. We do not support any party or candidate. We support a level playing field and the democratic process," said the embassy statement.

It added that Washington also supported the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The statement further urged Nigerian citizens to be wary of fake news and rumours that are "operating in overdrive", before adding that the elections are as important to foreign diplomats as they are to Nigerians.

African News Agency (ANA)