By Biodun Busari
The United Kingdom and Australia have asked their citizens not to embark on travels to Nigeria in the latest security advisories issued on Thursday.
In the same vein, the European Union cautioned that insecurity might prevent elections from taking place in some parts of the country.
The EU said the “security climate” in Nigeria was very hostile as the 2023 general elections are less than 35 days.
In October last year, the United States, UK, Canada, and other developed nations issued terror alerts, warning their citizens in Nigeria to avoid shopping malls, religious centres and hotels which they said could be targeted by terrorists.
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But the Federal Government jettisoned the advisories, describing them as false and guaranteeing Nigerians to go about their lawful business as the country was safe and secure.
Also, last December, the Tony Blair Institute revealed that the elections could be interrupted by Boko Haram, the Indigenous People of Biafra and criminal gangs.
In an updated travel advisory on Thursday, the Australian government appealed to its citizens to have second thoughts or cancel their planned visits to Nigeria.
A statement by the Australian government said, “Nigeria is scheduled to hold national and state elections between 25 February and 11 March. The risk of election-related violence is high. You should avoid all political gatherings and election related sites in the lead up to, during and after this period.
“Offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission across the country have already been targeted and should be avoided. Politically motivated murders and kidnappings have occurred, and the threat of further incidents remains high.”
For those planning to visit, Australia urged them to “Reconsider your need to travel. We have reviewed our travel advice for Nigeria and now advise reconsider your need to travel to Abuja.’’
Corroborating the Australian alert, the UK government also warned that protests might break out during the election.
The UK government said, “Nationwide elections will take place in Nigeria in February 2023, and there is a heightened risk of protests during this period.
“Political rallies, protests and violent demonstrations can occur with little notice throughout the country. International news events can sometimes trigger anti-Western demonstrations.”
According to the EU, the security challenges in Nigeria pose a great threat to the forthcoming general elections, if not addressed.
The Team Leader of EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria phase two programme, Rudolf Elbling, expressed the fear during a seminar in Abuja to assess various security threats that could affect the conduct and credibility of the elections.
“For a country like Nigeria, elections always have the potential of creating unrest and instability for a country the size of Nigeria, and that is a very dangerous thing not only for Nigeria and Nigerians but for the whole region.
‘’So, the insecurity issue for the last one or two years is of concern for everybody. It’s a concern for every Nigerian because life has changed. You cannot move around as you could; so there is a huge potential for this to impact on the elections,” Elbling stated.
He described the innovations introduced by the INEC to the electoral process as “quite substantial”
He, however, added that insecurity, which he described as the “basic problem”, might prevent INEC from conducting elections in all parts of the country.
The EU official stated, “This would create a lot of legal implications for the entire process that might disrupt the process. There are a lot of potential legal implications which subsequently would have a lot of political implications and which would have a lot of potential to disrupt the poll but of course, you know, logistics is also and always an issue.
“And I’m afraid that the insecurity again, will add to this problem and complicate issues more. Also, will the election technology hold up? The BVAS is a very promising item, but will it be working everywhere?
“We also have the INEC Results Viewing Portal; all these kinds of things are what we are really looking forward to even as they worked very well in the Ekiti and Osun elections. But again, the security climate, the political climate, which is extremely hostile; how will it affect the acceptance and credibility of elections.”
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