Nigeria’s electoral commission will postpone next Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure north-eastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram, an official close to the commission told the Associated Press on Saturday. Millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the north-east and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes. Civil rights groups opposed to any postponement started a small protest on Saturday. Police prevented them from entering the electoral commission headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Armed police began deploying to block roads leading to the building. The Nigerian official, who is knowledgeable of the discussions, said the Independent National Electoral Commission would announce the postponement later on Saturday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
A major offensive with warplanes and ground troops from Chad and Nigeria already has forced the insurgents from a dozen towns and villages in the past 10 days. Even greater military strikes by more countries are planned.
African Union officials were ending a three-day meeting Saturday in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, to finalise details of a 7,500-strong force from Nigeria and its neighbours Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger. Details of funding, with the Africans wanting the United Nations and European Union to pay, may delay the mission.
Nigeria’s home-grown extremist group has responded with attacks on one town in Cameroon and two in Niger this week. Officials said more than 100 civilians were killed and 500 wounded in Cameroon. Niger said about 100 insurgents and one civilian died in attacks on Friday. Several security forces from both countries were killed.