Multiple explosions were reported in the northern city of Maiduguri (Borno state) and its surrounding area on the morning (local time) of Saturday, February 23, hours before polling stations opened for presidential and parliamentary elections. According to local reports, around ten explosions and gunfire were heard at approximately 05:50. Security forces reportedly repelled the attackers after ten minutes of fighting. No casualties have been reported as of 07:50 and the vote is expected to go ahead as scheduled. While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out the assault. Further attacks in Maiduguri and other northern cities are possible in the coming hours and days.
Election officials postponed the presidential elections on February 16 hours before polls were to open due to "logistical concerns." 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 Maiduguri are advised to monitor the situation, anticipate significant business and transportation disruptions and increased security measures, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
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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