President Muhammadu Buhari – who steps down after two terms – is leaving office without having ended a 13-year-old jihadist insurgency in the northeast, and with increased violent criminality in northwestern and central states as well as separatist tensions in the southeast.
“If the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder declaration of elections results,” said Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, a national chairman with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This could “precipitate (a) constitutional crisis,” he said, adding it “must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen”.
Ahead of the 25 February vote, he said security personnel and election officials needed to be fully equipped to deal with “any challenge at all times”.
Zuru however asserted that Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Mohammed Babagana Monguno, and INEC’s chairman had jointly “assured the nation that conducive environment will be provided for successful conduct of the 2023 general election”.
“The Commission is not leaving anything to chance in ensuring that intensive and extensive security are provided for election personnel, materials and processes,” he said, speaking on behalf of INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu at an event in the capital Abuja.
The threats facing Nigeria are multiple and widespread.
On Saturday, gunmen attacked a train station in southern Edo state, kidnapping about 30 people and wounding others.
Kidnapping has become a major problem with “bandits” carrying out mass abductions, mostly in the northwest, though violence has spilled over to other regions.
INEC has recorded 50 attacks on its offices between 2019 and 2022 as a result of election-related violence but also protests and criminality unrelated to elections.
In July last year, gunmen bombed a prison on the outskirts of Abuja, freeing hundreds of inmates in an attack claimed by Islamic State group-allied jihadists.
The United States ordered diplomats’ families to leave Abuja in October due to what it called a “heightened risk of terrorist attacks” in the capital.
Authorities later said they had beefed up security.
18 candidates are vying to replace Buhari, including:
- Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party;
- Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP);
- and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP).
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