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Report: NIGERIA

Observers appeal for calm as Nigeria awaits election results

Vote-counting in Port Harcourt in Rivers State
Vote-counting in Port Harcourt in Rivers State Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

Preliminary results for presidential, parliamentary and senatorial polls were expected to be announced on Monday amid continuing security concerns with technical problems sparking violence in Rivers State and other areas.

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Counting was under way on Monday morning amid tight security in Inec collation centres across the country after an estimated 56 million registered voters cast their ballots over the weekend. Malfunctioning biometric card readers and a lack of vote materials in several polling stations led to violence on Saturday, particularly in Rivers State.

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Police fired teargas during a rally of opposition women in Port Harcourt on Monday outside the state headquarters of Inec on Monday morning. Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the same spot on Sunday afternoon who were later addressed by the Inec state commissioner Gesila Khan. The opposition All Progressives’ Congress in the state allege vote rigging and bias on the part of Inec and the security forces.

The United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon congratulated Nigeria on Sunday for “largely peaceful and orderly conduct” of the polls.

The African Union said the vote was broadly in line with "continental and regional principles" and appealed to parties to "resort to legally established channels, should there be a dispute on the outcome of the process".

Violence occurred in several rural areas of Rivers State and was carried out by armed youths claiming three lives, including a soldier. Fourteen people were killed in two separate bomb attacks in Gombe State suspected to have been perpetrated by the Islamic insurgent group Boko Haram. Rivers state, and the wider Niger Delta region has been wracked by violence since the early 2000s, mainly due to oil.

AU, Commonwealth, EU and Ecowas all deemed the area too unsafe to send their observers. The US-based Contact Project was the only international observer group on the ground in Rivers State. Their preliminary findings mirrored those of the UN.

“The introduction of the electronic system has been beneficial in many ways and I don’t think that should be overlooked as we examine the larger issues,” the Contact Project’s chief election observer in Nigeria, Jennifer K Lynne told journalists at a press conference in the Rivers’ State capital Port Harcourt on Sunday.

The Contact Project found that irregularities did not affect any one party more than another. The main opposition All Progressives’ Congress in Rivers State alleged that the ruling People’s Democratic Party was using the security forces to intimidate its officials.

Politicians of all parties and every region have long been accused of stoking the unrest by coopting unemployed youths to harangue voters.

"I don't want to record any bloodshed. It doesn't matter which political party wins. We will work with any system that works," says Young Nkpah, president of the National Youth Council of the Ogoni People.

The Ogonis are an ethnic group of 700,000 in Rivers State. They have been campaigning for fairer allocation of the country’s oil wealth that is generated in their region, often to the detriment of the environment. Their cause first received international attention when the leader of the Movement of the Struggle of the Ogoni People, Ken Saro Wiwa, was hung in 1995 by the military government of Sani Abacha.

Armed insurrections blighted the region until 2009 when rebels accepted an presidential amnesty deal. Since then former rebel leaders have received government contracts worth millions of euros. Their former foot soldiers receive monthly stipends but many more youth are unhappy with high rates of unemployment.

 

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