The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega has said that next year’s general elections scheduled to be held in February 2015 will go ahead across the country despite the violent activities of Boko Haram.
Prof. Jega said INEC was ready to organise polling in the three states under emergency rule because of Islamist attacks.
He said Nigeria can hold elections in February even if Boko Haram violence makes voting impossible in parts of the northeast, arguing that the disenfranchisement of thousands of people would not undermine the entire vote.
Based on current security assessments, the 57-year-old former academic said it was “inconceivable” that unrest could prevent voting throughout Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states.
But even if the security services ruled out polling stations in areas where the crisis is most intense — including much of Borno and parts of Yobe — the overall credibility of the vote would remain intact, he added.
“I want us… to get one thing clear: not doing an election in one state, it is unlikely to affect the outcome of the election nationally,” he said in an interview in Abuja.
Boko Haram is believed to be in control of more than two dozen towns and villages in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa although the situation could change significantly before polling day on February 14, 2015.
The United Nations has said that more than 600,000 people have been displaced by the conflict and will face huge challenges to return to their home districts to vote.
President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to declare his re-election bid in the coming weeks and analysts say the conflict-wracked northeast will vote overwhelmingly against him.
Human rights lawyer Festus Keyamo agreed with Jega that the de facto disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of likely opposition voters would not necessarily nullify the presidential result, especially if the margins are wide.
But, he said, Senate and lower house results in the affected areas would be invalid.
Some analysts have voiced concern that securing the northeast on election day will require a massive military deployment, leaving other flashpoint areas vulnerable, especially the religiously divided central states which have seen political violence before.