Gunmen can’t stop Nigerian election

By Salisu Rabiu

The Associated Press

KANO, Nigeria – Gunmen attacked a police station yesterday in northern Nigeria, killing 12 officers and torching the building despite the government’s attempts to increase security for weekend presidential elections meant to cement civilian rule.

Nigeria’s electoral commission said it would comply with a Supreme Court ruling that Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who fell out with the president and his powerful party, rejoin the race ahead of Saturday’s election.

The last-minute change added uncertainty to a race already marked by violence and fraud charges, but an election commission spokesman insisted the vote would go ahead as planned – with Abubakar on the ballot.

Abubakar told AP Television News in an interview that the development was “a victory for democracy.”

“It is a victory for the rule of law, and the protection of the constitution in this country,” he said. “The judiciary has to be commended for its courage, for its defense of our young democracy.”

In the northern city of Kano, which has been swept by riots in past years and is under a nighttime curfew after unrest in recent days, gunmen killed 12 policemen and the wife of an officer, said the regional police spokesman, Baba Mohammed.

“I’ve made up my mind that I’ll never go to another polling station, because there’s no security. I don’t even know if I can reach home alive,” said Ibrahim Garba, a 46-year old street vendor. “This is not a good development for democracy in the country.”

Residents said they believed the attackers were members of an outlawed Islamist movement that has clashed briefly with security forces in recent years. The attackers told people in the neighborhood that their quarrel was with the government only, but many residents fled, residents said.

Some of the attackers were apparently holed up in a building near the police station, with troops nearby. Security forces kept reporters back.

Tensions were high in the opposition stronghold city of 3 million after a delay in results from state governorship and legislature elections marred by fraud and violence.

Police banned political rallies across Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation with 140 million people, and security forces were ordered to put down any violence.

Abubakar bolted the ruling party after successfully opposing a drive last year to amend the constitution and allow a third elected term for President Olusegun Obasanjo. Umaru Yar’Adua, a member of Obasanjo’s party, is seen as the front-runner.

The electoral commission had barred Abubakar based on findings by an executive panel established by Obasanjo that found Abubakar stole government funds. Abubakar denies the allegations.

“The commission assures every Nigerian that the name of the vice president will be on the ballot,” commission spokesman Phillip Umeadi said in the capital, Abuja, following the Supreme Court ruling against the body. “The logistics are being put in place.”