Electoral Body Says Nigeria Ready for Polls Despite Security Concerns




ABUJA, NIGERIA — Nigeria’s electoral commission says the country is ready for Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections despite scattered violence in the run-up to the polls.

Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), told journalists Thursday that the commission had begun dispatching sensitive materials to Nigerian states, and that it had been working with the nation’s security forces to provide maximum safety for staff and election materials.

’They have assured us of their preparedness to adequately secure the election,’ he said. ‘This is very important as it will assure voters of their safety during elections, which is cardinal to voter turnout.’

Nigeria is also dealing with shortages of cash and fuel, and experts say that changes the dynamics of the polls.

’We’ve also had to consult with Nigerian National Petroleum Limited on the fuel situation,’ Yakubu said. ‘Likewise, the Central Bank of Nigeria will provide us with the necessary small amount of cash that we require from our budget to make payment for some critical service providers.’

This is the most contested election in history of Nigeria’s democracy with 18 candidates running to be president.

Nigeria has been struggling to stem widespread violence and kidnappings perpetrated by armed gangs. Security problems have gotten worse in the run-up to the polls, with several attacks and arson recorded on INEC offices. Officials said they had recorded over 50 attacks in all since the last elections in 2019.

Police said a senatorial candidate was killed early Thursday by gunmen in southeast Enugu state on his way from a campaign event.

Peace agreement

This week, the government’s National Peace Committee hosted an event where candidates signed a peace accord. Abduslsalami Abubakar, former head of state and chairman of the NPC, spoke during the event.

An electronic billboard carries a message warning the public against engaging in election violence, in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 23, 2023. On Feb. 25, voters will choose among 18 candidates in a first-round vote to succeed incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. An electronic billboard carries a message warning the public against engaging in election violence, in Lagos, Nigeria, Feb. 23, 2023. On Feb. 25, voters will choose among 18 candidates in a first-round vote to succeed incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.

’Issues of major concerns that have the potential to negatively impact on the integrity are emerging,’ he said. ‘One of such issues is the spread of fake news, and misinformation continues to pose a significant threat to the 2023 general elections.’

President Muhammadu Buhari spoke at the peace signing ceremony in Abuja.

’I am aware of the deep concerns about the conduct of the 2023 general elections and outcomes they may throw up,’ he said. ‘However, since my assumption of office we have worked so hard to ensure that we pass on a legacy of free, fair, credible, safe and peaceful elections.’

The INEC said about 150,000 election observers were already in Nigeria, including delegates from the African Union, European Union and the U.S.

Campaigning and the final push for votes was set to end Thursday.

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