Nigeria election chief warns over campaign violence

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakuba said the agency had tracked 50 attacks across the country since campaigning began just over a month ago.

Nigeria election chief warns over campaign violence
Nigerian lawyers hold up the national flag as they assemble at the secretariat of the Nigerian Bar Association during a protest in Abuja over the suspension of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in Abuja on 28 January 2019. Picture: Sodiq Adelakun/AFP

LAGOS - Nigeria's election authority on Friday warned of the threat of intensifying campaign violence just over three months before presidential and parliamentary elections.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakuba said the agency had tracked 50 attacks across the country since campaigning began just over a month ago.

"The commission is worried that if no urgent and decisive steps are taken, the attacks will intensify as we approach the election date," the INEC chief said in a statement.

"We need to take decisive steps to stem the ugly trend."

Nigeria's elections and campaigning are often marred by violence, fraud claims and threats, and the February 2023 ballot is expected to be a tight race to replace President Muhammadu Buhari.

INEC held an emergency meeting on Friday, a day after two of its electoral offices were attacked and set on fire in the southwest.

"The political class plays perhaps the most critical role in ensuring peaceful elections. We must all rise to the occasion. Nigerians are watching us," Yakuba said.

Security will be a major election issue with Nigeria's armed forces fighting jihadists in the northeast, armed bandit militias in northwest and central states and separatist agitators in the southeast.

The election approaches as Africa's largest economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, fallout from the war in Ukraine and its worst flooding in a decade that has impacted food production.