The Nigerian government has come to the defence of Nasir el-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, over his statement that foreigners who interfere in the 2019 elections would leave in "body bags".

This was contained in a statement by Garba Shehu, the President's spokesman, issued on Wednesday night.

During a live television programme aired on Tuesday on NTA, el-Rufai had said: “Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags.

"We are waiting for the person that 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. We got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible and we know the history of those countries that are trying to teach us these things. We have read their history.”

His statement had generated much outrage, with the European Union (EU) also responding to the Governor's statement via a tweet that read: "We are aware of the comments by the Governor of #Kaduna about non-interference by foreigners during a talk show on #NigeriaDecides2019 on 5/2/19. The #EU only deploys an election observation mission when it is invited to do so by the authorities of a country."

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has defended el-Rufai's position, stating that he spoke in the defence of national interest.

The statement read: "The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari would cooperate with election observers and would not let the international community down in the conduct of the coming elections.

“The Presidency assures Nigerians and the international community that the President would do everything within his power to ensure free, fair and credible elections in the country.

“We have taken note of the clarification to a reported earlier statement by the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufa’i concerning opposition call for foreign interference in our domestic affairs and to say that latest statement by him should rest the issue for good.

"There is nothing more to sneeze at. The Governor spoke strongly in defense of national interest. It is clear that el-Rufai, our party the APC, and all its candidates have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections. They are all of the views that there is no place for violence against local people or foreign citizens in our midst.

“Opposition PDP ought to own up to the mistakes of their own policies for 16 years which have led the country to a sorry pass that has cost lives, jobs and growth instead of dwelling on diversionary issues.”

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