BOKO Haram was unable to disrupt elections in Nigeria but its allegiance to Islamic State shows the group has an agenda that reaches well beyond Africa’s most populous country, a UN envoy said Monday.
Mohammad ibn Chambas, the UN envoy for West Africa, told the Security Council that while Boko Haram fighters staged attacks on election day in Bauchi state, northeast Nigeria, “they didn’t have an impact on the voting process.”
“Boko Haram was unable to disrupt the electoral process,” he told the 15-member council.
Nigerians voted Saturday and Sunday in presidential and parliamentary elections, one of the closest in the country’s history, amid fears of violence.
Chambas said that Boko Haram’s announcement that it had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, “whether for publicity reasons or to tap into ISIL support,” shows that “Boko Haram’s agenda goes well beyond Nigeria.”
At least 1.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes in northeast Nigeria and in neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Chad since May 2013 as Boko Haram stepped up its insurgency. They also, therefore, couldn’t vote.
The United Nations is scaling up operations in Nigeria and neighboring countries to address the humanitarian crisis triggered by the Boko Haram offensive, Chambas said.
The envoy voiced hope that the new Nigerian leadership “will remain committed to the sub-regional fight against Boko Haram”.
UN deputy aid official Kyung-wha Kang said the situation in northeast Nigeria and affected areas in neighboring countries was “dire,” with the violence having a “devastating impact” on women, children and young people.
Since early 2014, more than 7,300 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria’s three northeastern states under a state of emergency, said Kang.
Buhari’s early fortunes
In the election, BLOOMBERG reports former Nigerian military ruler Muhammadu Buhari took a lead in the presidential race with half of the 36 states reporting results.
Buhari led with 54.6% of the vote to 41.6% for President Goodluck Jonathan with tallies from 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory, the Independent National Electoral Commission said in Abuja.
Five states that Buhari lost to Jonathan in 2011 swung in his favour. Many areas from Jonathan’s stronghold in the southeastern part of the country haven’t reported.
The election, a key test of stability in Africa’s largest oil producer, pitted Jonathan, a 57-year-old southern Christian, and his People’s Democratic Party, against Buhari, a 72-year-old northern Muslim, and 12 other candidates, none of whom garnered more than 0.2 percent of the vote.
“This is the first time when a political challenger looks like he’s going to pull off a fairly convincing victory,” Nicholas Spiro, managing director of Spiro Sovereign Strategy in London, said by phone. “If he doesn’t, that is going to increase scope for what could be a very nasty post-election period.”
The authorities in Rivers state declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew to prevent protests by supporters of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress who say the election in the oil-producing area was rigged on behalf of Jonathan.
Results announced by the Rivers state electoral officer John Etu-Efeotor in Port Harcourt showed Jonathan winning by a margin of 1.48 million votes to 62,238 for Buhari. The APC rejected the result, as well as the tallies in Akwa Ibom and Imo states.
Buhari’s party has painted Jonathan’s government as corrupt, incompetent and incapable of defeating Boko Haram.
The PDP says Buhari is too old and human rights abuses were rife during his tenure.
“I can say without an iota of doubt that Nigerians across religion, across regional divisions, across class have actually understood the fact that the ruling class has messed up the country,” Habu Mohammed, professor of political science at Bayero University in Kano, said by phone. “This is a kind of a silent revolution in Nigerian politics, where people are looking at it from the context of issues-based politics.”