Nigeria has postponed the February 14 presidential election to March 28 over concerns about the security situation.
The country’s electoral commission chief Attahiru Jega said he had been told troops would not be available to help patrol the ballot because they would be fighting Boko Haram militants in the north-east.
Nigeria and four other states plan to deploy a joint force of 8,700 soldiers.
Both the Nigerian opposition and the US criticized the delay.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the US was “deeply disappointed”, adding: “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.”
Officials from the main opposition party accuse the military of forcing the electoral commission into the delay to help the sitting president’s campaign.
It looks set to be a tight race between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari and the postponement may well increase the tension which is already palpable.
“The commission cannot lightly wave off the advice of the nation’s security chiefs,” said Attahiru Jega.
“The risk of deploying young men and women and calling people to exercise their democratic rights in a situation where their security cannot be guaranteed is a most onerous responsibility.”
Parliamentary elections due to take place on February 14 have also been postponed to March 28.
Elections for state governors and assemblies slated for February 28 have been moved to April 11.
John Odigie-Oyegun, chairman of Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, said: “I strongly appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm and deist from violence and any activity which will compound this unfortunate development.”
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