Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration this week accused members of the opposition of mobilizing the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked Boko Haram and hiring mercenaries to disrupt the looming general elections this year with “massive attacks” in several states.
Lai Mohammed, Buhari’s Minister of Information and Culture, made the accusation during a press conference in Abuja on Monday, telling reporters:
We have credible intelligence that bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilized [by the opposition] to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country. … The Benue-based armed criminal group, led by Terwase Akwaza, also known as Gana, has been commissioned to strike soft targets in Benue, Nasarawa, and Taraba States.
In Kano State, a group of notorious miscreants have been mobilized by some prominent opposition leaders to provoke massive chaos before, during and after the elections. Some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West between now and the elections.
The allegation, reported by Sahara Reporters, came soon after the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria issued a security alert for American citizens, warning that Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS West Africa (ISWA) are planning to “disrupt” the elections.
On Friday, the U.S. Embassy cautioned:
ISIS West Africa (ISWA) and Boko Haram have both stated they plan to disrupt the upcoming 2019 presidential elections by conducting attacks on Nigerian Security and infrastructure, as well as places of gathering such as markets, hotels, and malls. While we have no specific threat information to the U.S. Embassy or within Nigeria during the election season, U.S. citizens in Nigeria should remember to follow personal security precautions on a regular basis.
A couple of days later, the Buhari administration accused the opposition of mobilizing jihadis, bandits, and mercenaries to derail the elections.
Minister Mohammed noted:
As you are aware, Nigeria goes to the polls just 27 days from now. However, the Federal Government is in possession of credible intelligence to the effect that widespread violence being orchestrated by the opposition is threatening the 2019 general election. … The desperate opposition is orchestrating widespread violence with a view to truncating the elections, thus triggering a constitutional crisis that could snowball into the establishment of an interim government.
He went on to say the Buhari administration is taking “every possible measure” to deal with the threat.
President Buhari has repeatedly claimed victory over Boko Haram, but the jihadi group continues to terrorize Nigerians, particularly in the northeastern part of the country, the organization’s birthplace.
On Sunday, the Daily Post reported that the Incorporated Trustees of the Civil Society Observatory for Constitutional and Legal Compliance (CSOCLC) is taking Buhari to court, challenging his eligibility to seek re-election.
“The group wants the court to decide whether Buhari has attained the minimum educational qualification to enable him [to] seek re-election into the office of the president,” the Nigerian news outlet revealed.
Early this month, Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), indicated that “Buhari’s denial of the continued threats of the Boko Haram insurgency has made the demand for [a] mental test for all presidential candidates imperative,” Vanguard noted.
The 2019 presidential and national assembly elections are scheduled for February 16, while the governorship and state assembly elections are slated to take place on March 2.