Nigerian elections postponed as Boko Haram terror activity rages

Nigeria’s presidential and legislative elections, due to be held on 14 February, have been postponed by the country’s Independent Electoral Commission due to violence wrought by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. The last presidential elections in 2011 saw claims of vote-rigging which sparked violence against Christian communities in which 800 people were killed.

Shortly before the decision, Fr Gideon Obasogie of the diocese of Maiduguri in the north-eastern state of Borno warned Aid to the Church in Need that many people were worried about the elections as they feared Boko Haram violence.

“Citizens of Maiduguri,” he said, “as far as possible, avoid crowded areas and the polling units would not be an exception, unless people’s security is assured and ensured. If anyone needs our votes, our safety must first be assured.”

Responding to the decision, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of Nigeria’s bishops’ conference, said: “Our hope is that this decision was made with good intentions and that, after having solved the problems cited by the Commission, elections are held,” adding that the Church has been preparing help monitor the poll so that election results are “credible and accurate”.

Nigeria’s Church has been “very active” at diocesan level in preparing people for these elections, he said, describing how the Church had “brought together different groups in order to avoid violence and electoral manipulation”.

“We held meetings with the elders in our centres for peace, dialogue and reconciliation, present in all our dioceses”, he said, as well as with youth leaders, representatives of the electoral commission, members of security forces, and political party members who agreed “to sign a document in which they endeavour to ensure that elections are free and fair.”

“The Church continues to stress among the population the importance of voting and the fact that going to the polls is a right and a civic duty” he said.