By Ikenna Asomba

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, Monday, promised to conduct a free and fair general elections in 2019, even as the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, assured Nigeria of the President Donald Trump-led United States support for peaceful polls.

President Buhari gave this assurance when he received the American Secretary of State, in audience at State House, Abuja.

U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja.

Rex Tillerson is cutting shot his week-long African trip in Chad and Nigeria where counter terrorism topped the agenda. Cutting his week-long Africa trip a day short, Tillerson, who has been in Africa since March 8, cited that he had urgent matters to attend to in the US.

He had also cancelled some of his appointments over the weekend in Kenya, saying that he felt unwell.

This came after meetings with the African Union, AU in Ethiopia and diplomatic meetings in Kenya.

During his visit to Chad, Tillerson hinted at the possibility of lifting the travel ban on Chad, which he said was an ally in the fight against terrorism. He said that his team was preparing a progress report on Chad which would be reviewed by President Trump at a later point.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby voiced his incomprehension of the travel ban.

During Tillerson’s visit to Nigeria, President Buhari affirmed that Nigeria prefers to have schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok, Borno State and Dapchi, Yobe State, back alive, and that is why it has chosen negotiation, rather than military option.

Buhari added that Nigeria was working in concert with international organizations and negotiators, to ensure that the girls were released unharmed by their captors.

U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja. With them are members of Tillerson’s entourage; Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama (2nd R) and Chief of Staff to Buhari, Abba Kyari.

A statement by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), quoted the Nigerian President as saying, “We are trying to be careful. It is better to get our daughters back alive.”

Buhari thanked America for assistance rendered in the fight against insurgency, noting that Nigerian forces are good, “but need assistance in the areas of training and equipment.”

President Buhari promised that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, adding that he would be in Yobe State, from where Dapchi schoolgirls were abducted, later this week “as part of my condolence and sympathy visits to areas where we have had unfortunate events.”

The President pledged free and fair polls in 2019, recalling that the then American Secretary of State, John Kerry, had visited before the 2015 polls, “and he told the party in government then, and those of us in opposition, to behave ourselves, and we did.”

The visiting Secretary of State commended President Buhari on his strides in the anti-corruption war, to which the Nigerian leader responded that moneys recovered are being invested on development of infrastructure.

Mr Tillerson said Nigeria was a very important country to the U.S, stressing: “You have our support in your challenges. We will also support opportunities to expand the economy, commercial investments, and peaceful polls in 2019.”