Nigeria Closes Borders Ahead of ElectionsMarch 26, 2015 in Nigeria
Days before presidential elections are due to take place, Nigeria has ramped up security nationwide, shutting land and sea borders and vowing to crack down on any political unrest.
On 25 March, the Nigerian Ministry of Interior confirmed that all land and maritime borders, with the exclusion of airports, will be closed between 0000 LT 25 March 2015 until 0000 LT 28 March 2015. In a statement released Wednesday, the ministry disclosed that the move, which was ordered by President Goodluck Jonathan, was designed “to allow for peaceful conduct of the forthcoming national elections,” which will take place on 28 March. In past elections in Nigeria, security has been a major issue, with politically linked violence often occurring between supporters of rival parties. The move comes just a day after Nigeria’s federal police chief ordered the “total restriction” of vehicles between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm on election day, which excludes emergency services and others on “essential duties.”
Fears that these elections could spark unrest have resulted in the president on Wednesday warning that the government will “not tolerate any form of violence during or after the polls.” He further disclosed that he is “…giving my total commitment to peaceful elections in the country, not because I am persuaded to do so but because I believe in it.” During the last presidential elections, which were held in 2011, some 1,000 people were killed after clashes erupted when opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari lost to Goodluck Jonathan. The two men are again contesting this year’s elections, with many predicting that the elections will be tightly contested.
In a bid to prevent any violence in the wake of Saturday’s election, the two main presidential candidates have signed a peace accord. Sources have disclosed that ex-military ruler Abdussalami Abubaker brokered the deal in talks that were held between Jonathan and Buhari. The peace agreement comes days after Nigeria’s Peace Committee raised concerns that campaigning had been marred by hate speech. However doubts remain as to whether or not such an agreement will last as Nigeria’s human rights commission has reported that nearly sixty people have been killed already in election-linked violence despite all the candidates agreeing for a peaceful poll.
Security has been the major concern ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections, which were postponed from the initial February 14 date because of military operations targeting Boko Haram. While over the past several weeks, a coalition, composed of Nigerian, Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien forces have claimed a series of success, forcing the militants out of captured territory in the northeastern region of the country, fears that the insurgents may carry out a bombing campaign against voters and polling stations remain high as over the past few weeks, Boko Haram fighters have returned back to carrying out suicide attacks targeting what the military has called “soft” targets, mainly markets and bus stations in the north. On Wednesday, Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS), called for vigilance in crowded places before, during and after Saturday’s election, noting that the threat remains high. Marily Ogar, spokeswoman for the DSS, told reporters, “voters are advised to be wary of persons in loose or bulky midriff clothing, which are inappropriate for the weather… Look out for unattended bags, luggage, dustbins, strange containers and other suspicious items,” adding that any “suspicious persons, activities and movements should be promptly reported to security agents.” The DSS has also urged that cars, motorbikes and three-wheel motorised taxis should be parked away from polling stations and that shops and markets remain closed.
The heightened security measures will remain in place until after gubernatorial and state assembly polls, which will take place on 11 April.