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Threats Of 'Jungle Justice' Surface Ahead Of Nigeria's Elections

Feb 19, 2019
Originally published on February 19, 2019 5:07 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Four days before Nigeria's rescheduled presidential vote, the gloves are off. The president is seeking re-election, and he says security forces will crack down on anyone who tries to tamper with Saturday's vote. The main opposition says this is a direct call for, quote, "jungle justice." NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports from Abuja.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Addressing his party leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader, said Nigeria's police and military have orders to deal ruthlessly with anyone found meddling in the voting process.

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PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI: Anybody who decides to snatch boxes or lead thugs to disturb the voting system - maybe that's the last unlawful action you will take. He will do it at the expense of his own life.

QUIST-ARCTON: There was an immediate backlash. Buhari's main challenger, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, described the president's comments as a painful reminder of the era of dictatorship and military rule.

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ATIKU ABUBAKAR: It is quite shocking for any head of state to utter such words in a democracy, and we will not accept it from General Buhari in this country.

QUIST-ARCTON: Atiku, as he's popularly known in Nigeria, urged the security forces to ignore what he described as Buhari's unlawful instructions.

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ABUBAKAR: A precondition for free, fair and credible elections is that the people are able to cast their vote without fear of violence. General Buhari, you owe it to our people to let them give their verdict in the same way you were elected. If you don't, history will condemn you for it.

QUIST-ARCTON: Atiku's opposition People's Democratic Party issued a statement describing Buhari's threat as a direct call for jungle justice. Past elections in Nigeria have been marred by intimidation and violence. And Buhari, Atiku and other presidential candidates have pledged to ensure a peaceful vote. Andy Madaki from the group Enough is Enough Nigeria criticized the president's language, saying it was provocative. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.