Nigeria to postpone elections for 6 weeks – official

2015-02-07 15:38

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Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone the February 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure northeastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram.

Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

A Nigerian official who is close to the commission and knowledgeable of the discussions told The Associated Press that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will announce the postponement later today. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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 and representatives of countries supporting the initiative were ending a three-day meeting today in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, to finalise details of a 7 00-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.

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 yesterday. Several security forces from both countries were killed.

International concern has increased along with the death toll: Some 10 000 killed in the uprising in the past year compared to 2000 in the four previous years, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations.

Officials in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration have supported postponing the February 14 vote.

Any delay is opposed by an opposition coalition fielding former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, though the opposition stands to take most votes in the northeast.

Supporters of both sides are threatening violence if their candidate does not win.

Analysts say the vote is too close to call, the most tightly contested election since decades of military dictatorship ended in 1999.

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