The Nigerian military vowed Wednesday to stay out of politics surrounding the country’s upcoming presidential election amid claims that it said it could not guarantee the election commission chairman’s security unless the army got six more weeks to contain the Boko Haram, Reuters reported. After the warning last week, the commissioner moved the date of the election from Saturday to March 28.
"It is important to reassure Nigerians that the military will remain professional, apolitical and non-partisan in all operations ... related to” elections, Major-General Chris Olukolade, a Nigerian defense spokesman, said in a statement, according to Reuters. He said there was “palpable tension being generated ... with regards to the roles of the Nigerian military in the ongoing political activities and recent developments, especially in relation to electioneering."
The military was urging for a six-week delay in the Nigerian election so it could contain Boko Haram, the insurgent militant Islamic group that controls a portion of Nigeria comparable to the size of Costa Rica and has killed about 7,000 people from July 2013 to June 2014, according to the Washington Post. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan supported the delay, but opponent Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress party unsucessfully called for the Feb. 14 elections to stand.
The Nigerian military’s alleged plans of interfering with the election became known when Attahiru Jegu, chairman of Nigeria’s election commission, said the office of the country’s national security advisor wrote him a letter that the military couldn’t guarantee his safety unless he postponed the Feb. 14 election, Reuters reported. Buhari and the APC said there was no way the military could contain Boko Haram in six weeks, noting that the group has been operating in Nigeria for six years.
The military was also accused in local media of successfully influencing the election for governor of Ekiti state. The online publication Sahara Reporters said it obtained an audio tape it claimed showed a Nigerian army officer was bribed “with a promotion for assistance in carrying out election fraud in Ekiti” last year.