from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA – NIGERIA appears headed for violent polls next month after government reported alleged plans by the Boko Haram and criminal gangs to perpetrate attacks ahead of the exercise.
Government said this was partly a ploy by the opposition to spark a constitutional crisis that would result in the establishment of an interim government.
Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, said government had credible intelligence that armed bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilized to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country.
He also alleged some armed mercenaries from the neighbouring Niger Republic had been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-west between now and the elections.
A criminal group in the Southeast is allegedly mobilizing to strike soft targets in the region.
“The Federal Government is taking every possible measure to counter these evil plans by unpatriotic anarchists and ensure the success of the 2019 general elections,” Mohammed said.
A coalition of civil society organisations raised concern at intimidation, hate speech and violence ahead of polls.
They expressed fear at the Boko Haram organizing regular raids against the military and ordinary communities as well as rising conflict between herdsmen and farmers.
The conflict has worsened into large-scale kidnapping and banditry.
“Today, virtually no Nigerian, anywhere in the country, feels safe,” civil society organisations stated.
Elections are set for February 16. Incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari, is seeking re-election.