ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria will deploy more than 400,000 security personnel ahead of the presidential election next week amid fears that Islamic extremists or secessionists could try to disrupt the vote.
The security forces also will be on hand in case of violent protests, Usman Baba, Nigeria’s Inspector-General of Police, told reporters.
“The Nigeria police with the support of other security agencies have perfected plans to deploy in a coordinated and collaborative manner,” he said.
The West African nation is set to elect a new president as it is confronted by a myriad of security problems: an Islamic extremist insurgency linked to the Islamic State group in the northeast, armed rebels in the northwest, and secessionists in the southeast.
The security challenges bring a “critical, serious threat to Nigeria’s democracy,” according to Bulama Bukarti, a senior fellow with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
“The non-state armed groups are going to do whatever they can do — using every arm in their arsenal — to see that Nigeria’s election gets disrupted,” Bukarti said.
At least two security operatives will guard each of the more than 175,000 polling stations across the country’s 36 states, Nigeria’s police chief said.
In southeastern Nigeria, a series of attacks already have targeted dozens of election commission offices and security posts, raising fears that voters will be afraid to cast their ballots on election day. The southeast region is home to a separatist movement blamed for the recent violence.
“We have made adequate arrangements to mark our presence in those areas in a lot of ways,” said police chief Baba, adding that more officers are being deployed there and that tents will be used in place of the destroyed offices.
Nigeria’s security forces are also anticipating post-election violence once results are announced.
“We are prepared to confront any situation that will need special intervention,” he said.
The police chief also expressed concerns about the ongoing shortage of cash and petrol in many Nigerian states. There already have been violent protests and attacks on banks, and the situation could mean more work for already overstretched security forces, he said.