Nigeria extends voting amid violence and technical failure
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Nigerians are voting for a second day after violence, technical failures and the hacking of the electoral commission’s website forced a one-day extension to allow voters to cast their ballot.
People queued patiently for accreditation before they could vote in the Government Restricted Area, an affluent suburb of Port Harcourt. Voters are required to place their index finger on the sensor of an electronic card reader. If the fingerprint correspondents with the biometric voter card they are registered to vote.
“The process is not easy. It takes between 10 and 20 minutes, so if you do the calculation it means we will be here for hours,” says Charles Dakuka, a polling station representative for the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
In another more densely populated area of the city people complained that they waited for hours to be accredited. Not only did some Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff turn up several hours later than the official opening time of 8 am, two of the four biometric card readers did not work. Similar technical problems delayed President Goodluck Jonathan’s accreditation in his home town Otuoke.
Ward Three in Port Harcourt is the biggest administrative area in the state and voting will continue for a second day. The INEC representative for Ward Three, Joseph Elisom says there were too many people to accredit in a day, and “it was a challenge for them to distribute [voter materials] on time.”
Rivers State recorded the highest number of violent incidents in the country according to the Abuja-based election monitoring organization CLEEN. Militiamen wearing police uniforms descended on voters in Obio local government area, Police Commissioner Hosea Karma told RFI. A soldier was killed in Port Harcourt Saturday when gunmen ambushed his convoy.
Rivers State was gripped by an armed insurrection for almost a decade until rebels agitating for fairer allocation of the nation’s oil wealth accepted amnesty in October 2009. The Niger Delta region remains awash with arms, and former rebel leaders have largely pledged allegiance to the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
Commissioner Karma denied accusations made by Governor Rotimi Amaechi, a founding member of the opposition All Progressives Congress, in an interview with RFI that the police were siding with the PDP in Rivers State: “He is entitled to his own opinion. This is a democracy … we are doing all we can to ensure there is a level playing field by providing security for legitimate voters to cast their ballot.”
General elections were postponed by six weeks in February for the military to win back more territory from Islamic insurgents, and to give voters more time to collect biometric voter cards. Boko Haram is suspected of keeping its promise to disrupt the vote, which the Islamic insurgent group says is unholy, killing at least ten people in Gombe State.
In spite of the will of a minority to disrupt the polls, voters in Africa’s most populous nation are determined to exercise their democratic right, even if it means risking their lives.
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