Nigeria postpones elections amid Boko Haram violence

The electoral commission postpones presidential and legislative elections slated for February 14 by six weeks

Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone February 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new
multinational force time to secure north-eastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official close to the commission said.

Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem.

Students take part in a demonstration in Douala, supporting the Cameroonian army engaged in a battle against Boko Haram.
Students take part in a demonstration in Douala, supporting the Cameroonian army engaged in a battle against Boko Haram. Pic/AFP

A major offensive with warplanes and ground troops from Chad and Nigeria already has forced the insurgents from a dozen towns and villages in the past 10 days. Even greater military strikes by more countries are planned. African Union officials were ending a three-day meeting on Saturday in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, to finalise details of a 7,500-strong force from Nigeria and its neighbours Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger. Details of funding, with the Africans wanting the United Nations and European Union to pay, may delay the mission.

100 civilians killed
Nigeria’s home-grown extremist group has responded with attacks on one town in Cameroon and two in Niger this week. Officials said more than 100 civilians were killed and 500 wounded in Cameroon. Niger said about 100 insurgents and one civilian died in attacks on Friday. Several security forces from both countries were killed.

Hold elections
US Secretary of State John Kerry said that “one of the best ways to fight back against Boko Haram” was by holding credible and peaceful elections on time.

Officials in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration have been calling for a postponement. Analysts say the vote is too close to call, the most tightly-contested election since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999.

A postponement will give electoral officials more time to deliver some 30 million voter cards. The commission had said the non-delivery of cards to nearly half of the 68.8 million registered voters was not a good reason to delaythe vote.

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