Nigerian opposition claims vote theft, wants re-run in Rivers state; results trickle in

At least 43 people killed in election-related incidents on Saturday, says Situation Room, a coalition of civil-society groups monitoring the ballot.

NIGERIA’S main opposition All Progressives Congress called for elections in the southern oil-producing Rivers state to be annulled and re-run, alleging that Saturday’s ballot had been rigged.

Electoral officials failed to release the election results, and collaborated and colluded with the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to distort the outcome, Ibim Semenitari, a spokeswoman for Rivers state Governor Rotimi Amaechi, said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday.

Violence was also used to deter people from voting and APC supporters and officials had been arrested, she said.

“In substance, there was no election in Rivers state,” she said. The APC calls for the “outright cancellation and rescheduling” of the vote.

Results from the closely contested elections trickled in on Sunday as voting continued for a second day in areas where the process stalled due to officials arriving late and equipment malfunctioning.

The results “are being collated,” Kayode Idowu, a spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission, known as INEC, said in a text message. “It is hoped that we should pull through within 48 hours.”

The election saw President Goodluck Jonathan, 57, and his People’s Democratic Party, which has been in power since army rule ended in 1999, face a united opposition led by former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari, 72.

It took place against the backdrop of a six-year insurgency waged by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, and a plunge in the price of oil, Nigeria’s biggest export.

The APC has painted Jonathan’s government as corrupt, incompetent and incapable of defeating Boko Haram, which has killed at least 1,000 people this year, according to Human Rights Watch. The PDP says Buhari is too old and human rights abuses were rife during his tenure between 1983 and 1985.

“Clearly we are headed for victory,” APC spokesman Lai Mohammed said by phone. “We had a very strong showing in the southeast, northwest, southwest and northern central regions.”

Election violence

PDP spokesman Olisa Metuh said he wasn’t immediately available to comment and campaign manager Femi Fani-Kayode didn’t answer calls to his mobile phones or immediately respond to a text message.

Counting in the western state of Ekiti finished at about 12:30 p.m. and results have been sent to the capital, Abuja, where the outcome will be announced, Sam Olumekun, INEC’s resident electoral commissioner for Ekiti, said by phone. He declined to comment on who won in the state.

“There were challenges here and there, but they were all resolved,” Olumekun said, referring to technical faults with card readers.

At least 43 people were killed in election-related incidents on Saturday, according to provisional data from the Situation Room, a coalition of civil-society groups monitoring the ballot.

The vote was extended for a second day at about 300 of the more than 100,000 polling points, it said in a Twitter posting.

National police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu said he was unaware of any fatalities on Sunday and that voting went smoothly aside from incidents in three of the 36 states—Gombe, Yobe and Enugu.

“It’s calm and stable as the results are being collated,” Ojukwu said by phone from Abuja.

‘Largely peaceful’

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the elections as “largely peaceful” and orderly, and said he was “encouraged by the determination and resilience shown by the Nigerian people in pressing forward and exercising their civic duties in the face of unjustifiable violence.” Attempts to disrupt the vote were to be condemned, he said in an e-mailed statement.

On the eve of the election, Boko Haram militants burned down the northeastern town of Buratai, killing 25 people and injuring 30, Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima told journalists in the state capital, Maiduguri.

Suspected Boko Haram gunmen killed at least eight people at polling stations in the Nafada and Dukku local government areas in the northern state of Gombe on Saturday, Fwaje Attajiri, a police spokesman for the state, said by phone.

After killing three people in Nafada, the gunmen proceeded to Dukku and murdered a Gombe state House of Assembly member, Umaru Aminu, along with four others, and torched a police station, Attajiri said. One policeman was killed in Nafada and another injured in the attack, said national police spokesman Ojukwu.

One soldier was killed and two were wounded when they were fired upon in the southern state of Rivers, Captain Nsima Essien, a military spokeswoman, said in a mobile-phone text message.

Bauchi attacks

On Sunday, gunmen traveling in a 10-vehicle convoy attacked polling stations in the Kirfi and Alkaleri local government areas in northern Bauchi state, Haruna Mohammed, a regional police spokesman, said by phone. While election materials were destroyed and the areas cordoned off by security forces, there were no immediate reports of casualties.

To win, a presidential contender must take at least 50% of the total vote while winning a quarter of the ballots in a minimum of 24 of the 36 states. If none of the 14 candidates secure such a victory, a run-off would be held within seven days after the results are announced. After being counted at polling stations, after election results are collated in the states.

“Reports indicate that turnout was quite high and people were very patient and determined to vote,” Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, which is monitoring the election, said in an interview in Abuja.

-Bloomberg

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