7 Feb 2015

Nigeria postpones election to fight Boko Haram

Nigeria is planning to delay its general election so that a multinational force can try and reclaim large swathes of the country from militant Islamist group Boko Haram, an official says.

Above: Jonathan Miller reports from Nigeria

A Nigerian official is reported to have told Associated Press that the elections would be delayed so that a multinational taskforce can tackle the group, which controls a 20,000 square mile territory in Nigeria’s north east.

Boko Haram has killed an estimated 7,000 soldiers and civilians in Nigeria since the start of 2014 in a campaign of terror in which schools have been targeted, towns razed to the ground, and children abducted.

The group hit the headlines in April last year when it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, and at the start of the year it massacred up to 2,000 people (though estimates range widely) in the town of Baga.

US officials said on Friday that it believed Boko Haram was still holding the majority of the missing schoolgirls across multiple locations.

Boko Haram has escalated its attacks since the start of 2015 in a bid to disrupt the general election – in what will be the most tightly fought election in Nigeria’s short democratic history.

Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan

Attempting to dislodge Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (pictured above, right) is Muhammadu Buhari (above, left) who ruled Nigeria following a military coup in the 1980s.

The retired major general will be seen by some Nigerians as the strong hand needed to fight Boko Haram. Speaking to Reuters on Saturday, Mr Buhari said it was a “big disgrace” that other countries had more success in fighting Boko Haram than Nigeria.

He said: “Our main objective is to secure the country. We will not tolerate insurgency, sabotage of the economy by the blowing up of installations, by stealing crude and so on…. All these things will be things of the past.”

Chad, Cameroon and Niger – countries that all share a border with Nigeria’s north east – have deployed troops and repelled attacks by Boko Haram in recent days.

On Friday Niger’s security forces, alongside Chadian warplanes, claimed to have killed 109 Boko Haram fighters as they fought off an assault on two towns near Nigeria’s border.

US intelligence officials said on Friday that Boko Haram has a “hardcore” of around 4,000 to 6,000 fighters.

Chad and Cameroon have deployed thousands of soldiers to reinforce the Nigerian border.