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Dire threats from insurgents put an end to Kaga rural dwellers’ hopes of participating in the elections

26 February 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes

Many rural people living in the south of the Kaga Local Government Area were bitterly disappointed as they did not get the chance to vote in the general elections on Saturday because the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided not to open polling units in eight wards due to dire threats of attacks by insurgents.

A resident of Kaga, who asked to remain anonymous, told RNI that elections were not held in the wards where people had received warnings that they would be brutally attacked and killed if they participated in the elections. The eight polling stations that were affected and remained closed were in the Tobolo, Fai, Dongo, Doguma Jalori, Shettimari, Galanga, Borgozo and Guwo wards of the Galangi district.

“But elections were successfully held in all wards in the district of Benisheikh,” he said.

Threats of attacks came from insurgents belonging to the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’way Wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, or the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). Residents were not able to tell which of the groups had made the threats.

“We think the insurgents were members of Boko Haram. They told residents that if anyone in the eight wards participated in the elections, they would face serious consequences for their actions.

“As a result, most of the rural dwellers refused to vote because they were too scared they would be attacked and killed. People living in those areas are extremely vulnerable because they are very close to the Damboa Local Government Area where the insurgents are actively operating in the Sambisa forest.

“The insurgents issued the warning before Saturday’s elections but the people, who are rural dwellers, did not inform security operatives because they were too scared. The insurgents told them that if they voted they would pay with their lives and warned that the attacks would be brutal.

“It was only on Saturday that people built up enough courage to tell the appropriate authorities, including the chairman of the Kaga council and security operatives. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late to take action and there were not enough stringent security measures in place to prevent attacks taking place or to ensure voters’ safety.”

A resident of Benisheikh town in Kaga, who also asked to remain anonymous, told RNI that he and others in the town were able to vote.

“I voted successfully in my polling unit at the Wajiro Central Primary School. It was peaceful and calm and there were no disruptions.

“But, unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the rural areas who have been disenfranchised because they could not participate in the elections. Prior to Saturday’s vote, Boko Haram insurgents gave them dire warnings and threatened to attack and kill them if they took part in the elections.

“It is a great shame because all of them wanted to vote and had been looking forward to exercising their constitutional right. They must be extremely disappointed. But the fear of being attacked is always with them. They know they have to listen to insurgents’ threats because if they don’t there is a distinct possibility that they could lose their lives.”



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