The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that presidential and national assembly elections will take place on Saturday, February 23, and gubernatorial and state assembly elections on Saturday, March 9. After postponing the general election by one week, Nigeria's federal government declared Friday, February 22, a national holiday to allow voters to travel to polling places. Heightened security measures are expected as violent demonstrations and clashes between supporters of rival political parties are possible, as witnessed in previous elections. Technical and logistical problems might also hinder the election process.
Heightened security measures will be implemented in the days prior and on election day, including the closure of border crossings, checkpoints, roadblocks, curfews, and an increased security personnel presence. Militant groups active in the region, including Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), 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.
Other disruptions, including vehicle restrictions and bank, business, administrative offices, and school closures, are likely on and around February 23 and March 9. Protests and political rallies cannot be ruled out.
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 Nigeria are advised to monitor developments to 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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