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Eight police officers gunned down in Nigeria amid serious security concerns ahead of presidential elections

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What only appears like a story from a script of Nollywood socio-drama movie, it is shocking to learn that it is surreal that it is no fiction but reality that at least eight police officers have been gunned down by assailants in South-eastern part of Africa’s most populated nation.

“So, if the police who are suppossed to protect the citizens are being shot dead, who then will now protect us, the ordinary people. This is scary and considering that there are elections coming up at the weekend it is becoming very dangerous.

“The way I see it, people will not go out to vote because it will be too dangerous out there and at the rate we are going these elections might as well be cancelled, said one political commentator, Femi Adeleke in a podcast.

However, according to media reports, the Nigerian authorities Monday this week revealed that suspected armed separatists have killed at least eight police officers in the past three days in south-eastern Nigeria, raising concerns ahead of the presidential election this weekend.

Four officers were killed in an attack on a police station in Anambra state on Monday, as authorities searched for suspects accused of killing four other officers over the weekend, the gate said. -local police spokesman, Tochukwu Ikenga . 

The attackers opened fire on the officers while detonating explosives, he said, adding that three of the attackers were killed and two others arrested.

Police have blamed the attacks on a separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is seeking independence for the southeastern region.

The Nigerian Authorities have accused the IPOB of inciting violence, which has claimed many lives in the conflict-torn region and fuelled fears that Nigerian security forces will not be able to protect voters during the polls.

The electoral commission may not be able to visit some polling stations due to security concerns, said Festus Okoye, an official with Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission.

“Security agencies promised they would be able to secure our communities so people could vote ,” he said. “(But) for people in areas where there is still conflict, there is absolutely nothing we can do.”

According to Al Jazeera, on Saturday, gunmen attacked a police station in the Ogidi area of Anambra state, killing three officers. On Sunday, one police officer was killed in an attack on the Nkwelle-Ezunaka police station in the Oyi district.

The attackers used “guns, IEDs and petrol bombs” but did not gain entrance to the police station, Ikenga said. “One police operative attached to the station was fatally wounded,” he said, and six gunmen were “neutralised”.

There have also been unclaimed attacks on INEC offices in the region. Despite the violence, the electoral body has said that the election will go ahead as planned on Saturday.

Local news outlet The Nation wrote on Monday that “all eyes” were on the IPOB and the southeast of the country following calls for a boycott of the election, with people in the restive region called on to participate in a sit-in at home instead of voting.

The Nation called on Nigerian authorities to to use strong action to uphold law and order across the country.

“This is no time to beg IPOB. This is time for the authorities to declare and enforce zero tolerance for lawlessness during the elections,” the newspaper wrote.

As Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer, Nigeria has resources and wealth, but armed attacks, the global pandemic, and the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have hit the country hard.

Saturday’s scheduled election has developed into a tight three-way race for the presidency, with the frontrunners all touting their past government experience and business acumen for the country’s top job.

Ex-Lagos Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress is facing former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, a surprise third-party candidate with high youth appeal.

Standing for president, Peter Obi

Although Nigeria’s economy rebounded after the COVID-19 pandemic, growing three percent in 2022, critics say the recovery has not trickled down to improve conditions for most Nigerians.

Falling oil revenues, growing insecurity from criminal gangs, heavy flooding that hit farming land and the effect of Russia’s war in Ukraine have combined to make things worse.

Nigeria’s unemployment rate is about 33 percent, while the number of Nigerians living in poverty rose to 133 million or 63 percent of the population in 2022, according to the national statistics bureau.

Youth unemployment now stands at 43 percent, compared with 10 percent prior to President Buhari’s first administration in 2015.

The naira currency has also fallen from an average of 200 naira to a US dollar in 2015 to approximately 750 on the parallel market.

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