Nigeria to hold presidential vote on Feb 14, 2015

ABUJA (AFP) - Nigeria is to hold its next presidential election on Feb 14, 2015, the electoral agency said on Friday, with incumbent head of state Goodluck Jonathan expected to seek a second term.

"The commission has scheduled the presidential and National Assembly elections for 14th February 2015," the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said in a statement.

The commission said governorship and elections for state assemblies would be held on Feb 28 next year.

It also fixed Jun 21 and Aug 9 this year for the gubernatorial polls in Ekiti and Osun, two states in the country's southwest where fresh elections are due at the expiration of the tenure of the incumbents.

Mr Jonathan has held office since May 2010, after being elevated from vice-president to take over on the death of his predecessor, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua. He was elected to a four-year mandate in 2011.

Although he has not publicly declared his ambition to continue, he is widely expected to seek another term in the poll to be held on Valentine's Day next year.

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and its largest oil producer.

It holds significant regional influence.

The country, however, also has a long history of electoral malpractices and violence, and is experiencing tensions in its north, where it has been working to crush an insurgency by the Islamist group Boko Haram.

More than 800 people were said to have been killed in riots in some parts of the north after the last elections in 2011.

The ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) to which Mr Jonathan belongs has won every presidential vote since Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999.

But it is split by the current president's election ambitions.

Last week, the party's chairman, a Jonathan ally, was forced to resign following infighting among the key members. In November last year, five influential state governors defected to the main opposition All Progressives Congress while 37 members of the lower chamber of parliament crossed the floor a month later.

The lawmakers' actions lost the PDP its parliamentary majority, raising the prospect that it could lose power.

At the heart of the dispute is the perception that Mr Jonathan will ignore an unwritten party rule to rotate the presidency between a candidate from the Christian majority south and mainly Muslim north.

Mr Jonathan is also under fire for having failed to address major concerns about corruption, inadequate development and poor infrastructure, and to end the bloody Islamist insurgency in northern Nigeria.

The electoral body has promised to ensure that the 2015 vote is free, fair and credible.