Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria Pushes Back against Criticism of Election Security

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nigeria Pushes Back against Criticism of Election Security

Article excerpt

With Saturday's presidential election in Nigeria looming, armored vehicles and rifle-toting police have surrounded the offices of the electoral commission in a Lagos suburb, while police checkpoints are multiplying along Ikorodu Road, the bustling city's main thoroughfare.

With fears of election-related violence running high, the government has taken what it describes as extensive precautions to ensure security across the country on election day. But it is unlikely that polling will take place in most of the northeast, Boko Haram's stronghold, in the absence of functioning government institutions. And many worry that government security forces may not be able to keep a lid on the violence despite weeks of preparation.

"This is always extremely dangerous in a country divided along religious and ethnic lines," says John Campbell, the former United States ambassador to Nigeria, adding that the military is simply too weak to prevent potential protests from spiraling out of control.

Chris Ngwodo, a Nigerian political analyst, says a lack of resources and manpower is largely to blame. Even so, he says that he is "not sure that we have done all we can do or that we are prepared as we can be."

For its part, the police force has announced a nationwide traffic ban - with an exemption for emergency vehicles - from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on voting day. It has also promised to ensure "water-tight security around key and vulnerable points," including refugee camps, newsrooms, government offices, and hospitals, according to a statement.

In February, President Goodluck Jonathan cited the growing threat of Boko Haram in his push to postpone the election for six weeks. While the military claims to have made significant ground against the Islamist militant group since then, it still poses a serious threat. On Wednesday, a military spokesman told The Associated Press that several hundred people were abducted by Boko Haram fighters as they retreated from a northeastern town earlier this month. …

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