Voting in Nigeria hit by violence

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission move electoral materials to the polling booths in Otuoke, Bayelsa State March 28, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission move electoral materials to the polling booths in Otuoke, Bayelsa State March 28, 2015. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

Opposition rejects results, accusing Jonathan supporters of being behind killings

CONFUSION and violence blighted Nigeria’s tensest presidential election since the end of army rule, with the opposition rejecting results from a turbulent southern state even before they have been announced. The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State accused supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan of being behind the killing of its campaigners, and denounced the vote there as a sham and a charade.

Dismissal of the vote in Rivers – a centre of the Nigerian oil industry – raises the prospect of a disputed national outcome and the risk of a repeat of violence that erupted after the last election in 2011, when 800 people were killed in the mainly Muslim north.

Voting in Saturday’s election was extended into yesterday at a relatively small number of polling stations after technical glitches hit voter ID machines.

Witnesses said Islamist Boko Haram militants killed more than a dozen voters, while at least two people were shot dead in the oil hub of Port Harcourt, the biggest city in Rivers State which has a long history of political thuggery.

The vote pits Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari for the favour of an electorate divided along a complex mix of ethnic, regional and in some cases religious lines in Africa’s most populous nation.

It is also the first election since the end of military rule in 1999 in which an opposition candidate has a serious chance of unseating the incumbent.

Buhari’s APC reported violence in Rivers state. “Armed militias . . . have intensified their killing of APC members. Scores have already been killed,” it said, accusing Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of being behind the deaths.

“Whatever trash will [be] announced as the result of today’s election is not acceptable to us . . . [it is] a sham and a charade.”

PDP officials did not respond to a request for comment and it was not possible to corroborate the claim independently.

Islamist insurgents launched several attacks on voters in the northeast on election day, killing three in Yobe State and 11 in neighbouring Gombe, including an opposition parliamentary candidate.

The militants, who are trying to establish an Islamic caliphate, reject democracy and their leader Abubakar Shekau has threatened to kill voters. A string of military victories by troops from Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger has reclaimed much of the territory the Islamists controlled earlier this year, but they retain the ability to mount deadly attacks on civilians.

Voting was beset by problems from the start as officials turned up late and biometric card readers, introduced to prevent the vote-rigging that has marred previous polls, failed to work. Even Jonathan had to wait 40 minutes. Electoral commission spokesman Kayode Odowu said just 350 polling stations out of 120 000 were still voting. There are up to 56.7 million votes to process.

– Reuters

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