Tuesday 12 December 2017

Nigeria delays poll for Boko fight

Boko Haram militants attacked the Niger border towns of Bosso and Diffa. (AP)
Boko Haram militants attacked the Niger border towns of Bosso and Diffa. (AP)

Nigeria's electoral commission is to postpone presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure north-eastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official has said.

Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead on February 14 while the Islamic extremists hold a large area of the north east and continue the violence that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.

A major offensive with planes and ground troops from Chad and Nigeria has forced the insurgents from a dozen towns and villages in the past 10 days, and greater military strikes by more countries are planned.

The official said the Independent National Electoral Commission will announce the postponement at a news conference.

Officials in President Goodluck Jonathan's administration had been calling for a postponement, which is opposed by an opposition coalition fielding his chief rival, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari.

Supporters of both sides are threatening violence if their candidate does not win. Some 800 people were killed in riots in the mainly Muslim north after Mr Buhari, a Muslim, lost 2011 elections to Mr Jonathan, a Christian from the south.

A postponement will give electoral officials more time to deliver 30 million voter cards. The commission had said the non-delivery of cards to nearly half of the 68.8 million registered voters was not a good reason to delay the vote.

Earlier today, officials in Niger said m ore than 100 Boko Haram fighters had been killed by soldiers responding to attacks on two towns near the border with Nigeria.

Defence minister Karidjo Mahamadou said four soldiers died and 17 were wounded in fighting in the towns of Bosso and Diffa. He said two soldiers were missing and a civilian was also killed.

Niger's army received support from Chad as it worked to repel Boko Haram's assault.

African Union officials and representatives of countries supporting the anti-militant campaign are ending a three-day meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon's capital, to finalise details of a 7,500-strong force from Nigeria and its neighbours Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger.

Details of funding, with the Africans wanting the United Nations and European Union to pay, could delay the mission.

Nigeria's home-grown extremist group has responded with attacks on one town in Cameroon and two in Niger this week. Officials said more than 100 civilians were killed and 500 wounded in Cameroon.

International concern has increased along with the death toll, with about 10,000 killed in the uprising in the past year compared with 2,000 in the four previous years, according to the US Council on Foreign Relations.

The failure of the military to curb the five-year Islamic uprising, growing corruption and an economy hit by halved oil prices have hurt the president of Africa's biggest oil producer and most populous nation of about 170 million.

Press Association

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