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Nigerian bishops concerned by election deferral

By Ann Marie Foley - 12 February, 2015


Nigeria’s bishops have called for security issues in the country to be resolved and elections to be held quickly.

The decision to move the presidential and legislative elections, which were to have been held on 14 February, was made for security reasons.

The Independent Electoral Commission cited the violence of Boko Haram and logistic problems as reasons for postponement for another six weeks.

Security forces also stated they needed more time to secure areas held by Boko Haram.

“We hope that the postponement of the election was made with good intentions”, said Mgr Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, Archbishop of Jos and President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria.

He added that “Several citizens are not happy with the postponement.”

Archbishop Kaigama said that the Church has been preparing the people for the elections with the help of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission in various dioceses. It is also hoping to have a role in monitoring the elections.

“The Church continues to stress among the population the importance of voting and the fact that going to the polls is a right and a civic duty,” the Archbishop told Fides News Agency.

The Church has also been bringing together different groups to help avoid violence and election rigging.

There have been meetings with the elders, youth leaders, representatives of the Electoral Commission, members of the various security forces and with political party members.

These politicians have signed a commitment to strive for free and fair elections.

“The Church wants to make sure that the election results are credible and accurate, hoping that this will contribute to peace in our country,” stated Archbishop Kaigama.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has highlighted fears of a Muslim-Christian conflict during the election period.

“We want to live together peacefully, as brothers and sisters. I therefore ask for your prayers that the upcoming elections can be held peacefully, without violence and without bloodshed,” the charity quoted Archbishop Kaigama.

There are about 170 million inhabitants equally divided between Muslims (mostly in the north) and Christians in the south.

The postponed elections are now due to take place on 28 March 2015, and the two main contenders are the incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck — who is Christian and Muhammadu Buhari who is Muslim.

In the last presidency election of 2011, Jonathan Goodluck had a narrow victory, and there were accusations of vote rigging by the opposition including Buhari.

There were also Muslim attacks on Christian communities that left 800 dead.

Buhari supporters have claimed that the postponement of the election is a tactic used by Jonathan Goodluck to avoid defeat.

The election this time comes after a sustained period of attacks in the north-east by Boko Haram, which has destroyed some 1,000 churches in the past four years.

In 2015 so far, Boko Haram has already killed 2,000 people, most of them Christians.

ACN states that the Nigerian army has failed to make inroads against these Islamic extremists.

In a wide ranging interview with ACN, Archbishop Kaigama said that people everywhere in Africa look to Nigeria and what happens there has an effect on other countries, not least the terrorist activity of Boko Haram.

Violence has spread to neighbouring countries and many Nigerians have fled and arrived as refugees in such countries.

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