Nigeria’s electoral authority said on Thursday two of its local offices had been attacked and set on fire in the country’s southwest as officials prepare for 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Nigerians go to the ballot box in February to vote for a successor to President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army commander who steps down after two terms in office.
Elections and campaigning are often marred by violence in Africa’s most populous nation, and the 2023 ballot appears set to be a tight race with no clear favourite emerging.
The Independent National Electoral Commission or INEC said its office in Abeokuta South, Ogun State had been set ablaze and destroyed early Thursday along with more than 900 ballot boxes and more than 60,000 voter ID cards.
Another office in Ede in southwest Osun State was also attacked and set on fire though with less damage.
“These simultaneous attacks are very worrisome indeed,” INEC said in a statement.
“Similarly, the rising incidents of attacks on supporters of various political parties since the commencement of campaign barely two months ago and the use of hate and incendiary language by some politicians are extremely disturbing.”
Election offices have been attacked recently in the country’s southeast, where armed separatists are seeking a breakaway state for the local Igbo people, but attacks in the southwest are rarer.
Security will be a major issue in the election with Nigeria’s armed forces battling jihadists in the northeast, heavily armed criminal gangs in northwest and central states and separatist agitators in the southeast.
Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria has also been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, fallout from the war in Ukraine and its worst flooding in a decade that has impacted farms and food production.