Boko Haram violence could derail Nigerian elections - priest

Military forces enter northeastern Nigeria, where the Boko Haram insurgency is at its worse.Photo: Aid to the Church in Need

As Boko Haram surrounds a major city in northeastern Nigeria, a local priest says that the actions of the radical Islamist group could result in the postponement of elections in the country.

Father Gideon Obasogie told Aid to the Church in Need that there is a general feeling of "fear and tension" in the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri. He said that voters are not likely to turn up and add their votes unless government forces are able to assure them of their safety. 

Nigeria is due to hold its presidential elections on February 14 but recent weeks have seen a string of attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram.

"Most people are quite sceptical of the polls as they fear the terrorists' attacks." Fr Obasogie told ACN. "Citizens of Maiduguri, as far as possible, avoid crowded areas and the polling units would not be an exception, unless people's security is assured and ensured. If anyone needs our votes, our safety must first be assured."

Boko Haram forces have surrounded Maiduguri by capturing nearby villages and towns as well as occupying three of the four major roads that lead to the city. The militants have also captured the military garrison in Mongonu, and have launched three failed attempts to capture the city in the past two weeks.

Fr Obasogie believes that the group is launching repeated incursions to obtain weapons from fallen government forces, possibly to prepare to "heavily attack" Maiduguri.

However, the priest said, the political parties in Nigeria are not doing enough in the face of the seriousness of the Boko Haram threat.

"Those whose duty it is to protect the lives of the populace are obviously unable to halt the radical Islamist group," Fr Obasogie lamented. "If [Maiduguri] falls, we have only succeeded collectively in empowering the terrorists, recapturing it would take some time and the consequences apparently would be deadly."

Maiduguri hosts a major airport as well as a sizeable military base. If the rebels succeed in taking the city, they will have access to these facilities and weapons from the Nigerian military.