News / Africa

Nigerian President Considering State of Emergency if Elections Not Complete

A man casts his vote at a polling unit in Dugbe neighborhood during the governorship election in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, April 26, 2011.
A man casts his vote at a polling unit in Dugbe neighborhood during the governorship election in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, April 26, 2011.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan says he will be forced to impose a state of emergency in two northern states, if they are not able to complete elections this week.  

President Jonathan says declaring a state of emergency in Kaduna and Bauchi is an option of last resort, if there is not sufficient security to hold statewide elections there.

Voters in most states chose their governors Tuesday.  But polls in Kaduna and Bauchi were delayed until Thursday because of violence that followed the president's election, last week.

Opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari says that vote was rigged.  Some of his supporters in the north attacked churches, homes and police stations, sparking reprisal attacks by Christians.  The human rights group the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria says at least 500 people were killed in that violence.

With President Jonathan to be sworn-in on May 29, he says he will be forced to declare a state of emergency in Kaduna and Bauchi, if they have not voted by Friday.

"If by 29th of April we are unable to conduct an election in any state then, by law, we can not conduct elections again until after inauguration because you need 30 days. In that case we have no choice than to declare state of emergency, even if there is peace," Jonathan said.

The president says a state of emergency is not the best option because, even if it lasts for only three months.  He says those will be three months of stagnation.  Mr. Jonathan says he hopes the deployment of more security personnel to Kaduna and Bauchi will allow those elections to continue.

Witnesses say Tuesday's voting for Nigeria's powerful state governors was marred by bomb attacks, a shortage of election workers in some areas and gunmen stealing ballot boxes.

Three bomb blasts hit the northeastern city, Maiduguri, two days after explosions in the same city killed three people and wounded 14 others.  Hundreds of election workers, most of them members of the national youth service corps, refused to show up for work in the north, where most of the recent unrest has occurred.

In the southern Niger Delta region, police say they found two unexploded bombs, one near an office of the electoral agency and another near a government office. Also in the Delta area, armed thieves stole ballots from polling sites.

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