Security alert!(COVER STORY: Nigeria Election Special) (security during elections in Nigeria) (Cover story)

Author:Cummings, Ryan
 
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With the Boko Haram mayhem at its worst level, the ever-lingering issue of the Niger Delta militancy rearing its head, and Nigeria's past election violence, concerns about security during these elections are at their peak. Ryan Cummings and Lagun Akinloye explain.

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Elections in Nigeria are not always a peaceful affair. After the 2011 presidential elections, as many as 800 people were killed in post-election violence as supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari alleged rigging in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan. This month, as in 2011, Nigeria's opposition-held northern states and the country's politically polarised Middle Belt region will be particularly susceptible to outbreaks of politically motivated violence.

Noting Nigeria's near "perfect storm of challenges"--Boko Haram, the closeness of the elections and falling oil prices--a report published in November 2014 by the International Crisis Group (ICG) laid out a cautious warning as to why the current political atmosphere should be a cause of worry.

The ICG and other observers are concerned that as the political competition hots up, some participants' competitiveness could go too far. But it is violence from Boko Haram and the possibility of renewed militancy in the Niger Delta that poses the greatest threat. For Boko Haram, the radical Islamist insurgency rampaging across parts of Nigeria's northeast, elections are anathema. Almost all analysts of Boko Haram predict the group's campaign of violence to be intense around the polls.

These attacks may also service the strategic objectives of the sect. A cross-country terror campaign would necessitate the government prioritising urban security to ensure that Nigerians can cast their ballots. In doing so, however, the federal government would undoubtedly have to redirect security resources away from the northeast, which would weaken the more territorial fight against Boko Haram. Boko Haram's longstanding insurgency in the northeast could help cause a political crisis in Nigeria, leading to post-election violence. Two of the three states worst affected, Borno and Yobe, are Buhari strongholds.

Turnout in these two states, under the shadow of Boko Haram and managing large numbers of internally displaced people, is likely to be very low. If Jonathan wins narrowly, some APC supporters might view this reduced turnout...

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