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April 23, 2011

Nigeria Gubernatorial Vote to Proceed Despite Unrest

by Peter Clottey

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says his organization has postponed elections in both Bauchi and Kaduna states after violence erupted there after last week’s presidential poll.

Riots broke out in the predominantly Muslim north last week after incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, won Saturday's election. Muslim supporters of his unsuccessful challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, attacked churches, homes, and police stations. The violence sparked counterattacks by Christians.

Nick Dazan, INEC’s deputy director of public affairs, says security agencies have given their assurance that INEC officials as well as ordinary citizens will be protected during Tuesday’s gubernatorial vote.

“We have engaged the security agencies [to] secure the personnel [needed to] conduct this election; that is, members of the NYSC [Nigerian Youth Service Corps] and [to secure] the [voting] materials,” said Dazan.

He says INEC is prepared to conduct “yet another credible vote.”

“The commission has been assured by the security agencies that they will ….secure the election and [ensure] a peaceful environment for voters,” said Dazan.

Angry opposition supporters targeted some members of the NYSC following the April 16 presidential elections. Parents of the youth corps have expressed concern about the safety of their children.  But, President Jonathan called for calm and ordered security agencies to “use lawful means” to end any violence.

“It is my solemn duty to defend the constitution of this country,” said President Jonathan in a nationwide address following last week’s rioting. “That includes the obligation to protect the lives and properties of every Nigerian wherever they choose to live. I have ordered the deployment of security personnel to troubled parts of the country. I have also directed the reinforcement of security in all parts of the country.”

Media reports say more than 100 people were killed in the rioting, though officials have declined to give a death toll for fear of prompting more attacks.