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April 20, 2011

Nigerian President Calls Out More Security Forces

by Scott Stearns

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is calling out more security forces to stop rioting that has followed his election. The president's leading challenger says that vote was rigged.

President Jonathan says calm is being restored to troubled parts of northern Nigeria where political violence is displacing thousands of civilians. He says Tuesday's last round of voting for statewide office holders will proceed as scheduled - with stepped-up security.

"I've ordered the deployment of security personnel to troubled parts of the country," he said. "I have also directed the reinforcement of security in all parts of the country. I have authorized our security services to deal with all acts of violence against our fellow citizens, decisively."

The latest unrest began Sunday when Muslim supporters of defeated presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari attacked churches, homes and police stations in northern states, sparking reprisal attacks by Christians.

Buhari says President Jonathan's election was rigged, through electoral commission computers. Independent observers say it was largely free and fair.

Buhari is condemning the violence and is urging his supporters to be patient while he challenges the results in court. He, too, wants voters to come out for the statewide elections, saying it would grievous mistake for his supporters to destroy their voters' cards in frustration.

"I  urge you to preserve and safeguard your cards and come out en masse on Tuesday to vote out and disgrace your oppressors who have stolen your votes," said Buhari. "If you don't do this, it is to be feared that all your efforts will have been in vain."

In a nationwide address, President Jonathan said there will be a judicial commission of inquiry into what he calls "dastardly acts of violence" that recall the days before Nigeria's Biafran civil war, in the late 1960's.

"We are shocked by these horrific acts which strike at the heart of the nation," said Jonathan. "These disturbances are more than mere political protest. Clearly, they aim to frustrate the remaining elections. This is not acceptable. If anything at all, these acts of mayhem are sad reminders of the events which plunged our country into 30 months of an unfortunate civil war."

Jonathan also recalled a 1993 vote that was annulled by military rulers, saying that brought Nigeria to the brink and it is inconceivable that some people are now trying to re-enact that political stalemate.

"I call on our religious leaders not to use the sacredness of our places of worship to promote messages that could lead to hate, disharmony, and disaffection," he said.

The Red Cross says post-election unrest has wounded 410 people and displaced 40,000 others. Media reports say up to 50 people may have died in the violence, although government officials and aid agencies are declining to release casualty figures for fear they might prompt more reprisal attacks.