Presidential and national assembly elections are set to take place in Nigeria on Saturday, February 16. A second round of presidential elections will be organized within seven days of the first vote if none of the candidates secures 50 percent of the national popular vote. The main presidential contenders are incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
The elections could lead to travel disruptions, including at short notice. The government announced that the country's land, air, and sea borders will be closed from 00:00 (local time) on February 16, and airports will likely remain closed. Travel restrictions are likely to implemented, such as additional police and military checkpoints, roadblocks, and curfews. On Saturday, regular road travel is expected to be prohibited. Additionally, all shops, banks, and administrative offices are likely to remain closed. A midterm break for students has also been announced from Friday, February 15, to Tuesday, February 19.
There is a heightened risk of political violence in Nigeria during election periods. Violent demonstrations and clashes between supporters of rival political parties are possible, as witnessed in previous elections.
Furthermore, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants have threatened to disrupt the elections by conducting attacks on Nigerian security forces and infrastructure, as well as public gathering places such as markets, hotels, and malls. Attacks targeting polling stations cannot be ruled out.
Gubernatorial and state assembly elections are also scheduled for March 2. Similar security measures, including border closures, are expected to be implemented ahead of the March 2 elections.
Presidential elections in Nigeria have a detailed record of unrest, fraud allegations, and backroom dealings. In 2015, Boko Haram attacks on voting centers killed 41 people; in 2011, bomb attacks before the elections and deadly post-election election clashes left over 1000 people dead. Moreover, the lack of voter cards and technical problems with biometric card readers have hindered previous election processes.
Individuals in Nigeria are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
The security environment in Nigeria remains complex. Although travel is permissible in some areas, other areas should be considered strictly off limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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