The Nigerian federal high court in Lagos has barred the military from deploying around polling stations during March 28 national elections, the lawyer for the parliamentarian who brought the case said on Tuesday. Opposition leader Femi Gbajabiamila argued a deployment would violate the constitution, lawyer Ijeoma Njemanze said, amid opposition fears that soldiers may intimidate voters or tamper with ballot boxes. The ruling, made on Monday by Justice Ibrahim Buba, does not affect troops already dispatched to northeast Nigeria, where Islamists have waged a six-year insurgency, she added.
The tight election pits President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari for the leadership of Africa’s biggest economy and leading energy producer. It was meant to happen on Feb. 14, but was delayed by six weeks after the military said it could not guarantee security.
Jonathan is seeking a second elected term, in the closest-fought election since the end of military rule in 1999.
If the military deploys despite the court order, the opposition is likely to use that fact to dispute the result should it lose the parliamentary and presidential ballot, potentially spurring violence by Buhari’s supporters.