Nigeria postponed presidential elections for six weeks because of concerns over attacks by terrorist group Boko Haram. Nigerians protested the delay as the Niger army repelled an attack by the group on border town Diffa.
Officials rescheduled the election from February 14 to March 28 “after security chiefs pleaded more time to make voting safe in parts of the country seized by Boko Haram.” In five years, the radical Islamic group murdered thousands and displaced over 1.6 million people.
“If the security of personnel, voters, election observers and election materials cannot be guaranteed, the lives of innocent young men and women and the prospect of free, fair and credible elections will be greatly jeopardized,” said Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Critics claim the delay is motivated by politics, since President Goodluck Jonathan and his rival Mohammadu Buhari are tied at 42 percent in opinion polls. Others insist “the delay would do little to weaken Boko Haram.”
“The security services needed at least six weeks within which to conclude a major military operation against the insurgency in the northeast,” said Jega.
European Union (EU) and West Africa election monitors told Nigeria to hold the elections. The United States expressed disappointment over the decision, with Secretary of State John Kerry warning the government “against using ‘security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.’”
There are rumors Boko Haram possesses Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to hand off to female suicide bombers within the group. This way, the women can easily maneuver into a polling station and blow it up.
“By this information, therefore, Nigerians, especially female voters, are warned to remain vigilant and also jealously guard and preserve their PVCs to avoid the possibility of their being lost to these bad elements who will put them to untoward uses,” said Mike Omeri, Coordinator of the National Information Centre.
Boko Haram attacked Diffa, which is on the border of Nigeria and Niger, early Sunday morning. Several people died before the Nigerien army pushed back the militants. After the attack, a bomb exploded in a market, which left twenty people injured. Six people are in critical condition.
“This morning, there was shelling by the terrorists and unfortunately a shell fell on the market. There was one person killed and six wounded,” announced Defense Minister Mahamadou Karijo. “The situation is under control and we hope that tomorrow parliament will authorise us to go on the offensive.”
Boko Haram also attacked a prison late Sunday night in Niger “hours before Niger’s parliament was due to vote on joining a regional offensive against the militants.” Officials did not reveal if the attack killed or wounded anyone.
“It’s now evident that Boko Haram has its cells, its sleeping networks in the town and the region of Diffa,” one military source told the media.
The terrorist group also continued its attacks on Cameroon, Nigeria’s southeast neighbor. Militants abducted twenty people in a bus in Bouba Kaina, which was driven to the Nigerian border. Boko Haram stormed Kolofata, “looting food and livestock.”