Nigeria vote delayed, ‘security concerns’ cited in wake of Boko Haram attacks

Updated 10:59 AM EST, Sun February 8, 2015

Story highlights

Nigeria elections delayed six weeks because of violence in northeastern part of country

Opposition party calls for calm, says change cannot be prevented

President Goodluck Jonathan is running for re-election

(CNN) —  

Nigeria’s elections have been postponed from next Saturday to March 28, the country’s election commission announced Saturday.

The postponement was due to security concerns, the commission said.

The Islamist terror group Boko Haram has increased its attacks against troops and civilians in the weeks leading up to the elections.

“In consideration of the advice by the security agencies, it will be unconscionable to have elections without adequate security,” said elections chairman Attahiru Jega, according to a tweet from the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for re-election, has been criticized for not doing enough to combat Boko Haram. In January, an angry mob pelted his motorcade with rocks while he was visiting northeastern Nigeria. Jonathan a member of the Peoples Democratic Party, faces a formidable challenge from a opposition alliance.

The All Progressives Congress called the delay a “major setback for Nigerian democracy.”

” I strongly appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm and desist from violence and any activity which will compound this unfortunate development. We must not fall into this obvious trap,” party chairman John Odigie-Oyegun. “Change we must. They can only delay it; No one can stop it.”

The announcement comes the same day Benin, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria and Chad pledged to deploy 8,700 troops, police and civilians, as part of a regional effort to fight Boko Haram.

Boko Haram has terrorized northern Nigeria regularly since 2009, attacking police, schools, churches and civilians, as well as bombing government buildings. The Islamist group has said its aim is to impose a stricter form of Sharia law across Nigeria, which is split between a majority Muslim north and a mostly Christian south.

Recently attacks in Nigeria and in neighboring Cameroon and Chad have increased.

Boko Haram attacks Nigerian city in second takeover attempt

CNN’s Lillian Leposo and Christian Purefoy reported from Nigeria and Steve Almasy wrote in Atlanta. Journalist Ngala Killian Chimtom contributed to this report.