Nigeria counts votes after tense local elections

Saturday’s elections for more than 900 state assembly deputies and 28 governors took place in Africa’s most populous country, three weeks after the ruling party won a presidential race that opposition groups said was rigged.

With President Muhammadu Buhari stepping down in May after two terms, many who had hoped for change were disappointed in the way the vote was conducted on February 25, a sentiment that could have affected local rivalries.

The Labor Party (LP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) both challenged the All Progressives Congress (APC) victory, claiming that technical incidents allowed for ballot manipulation, which the Election Commission denied.

After observing Saturday’s vote, the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) noted in parts of the country “a sense of frustration that because of the unfavorable results of the presidential election ‘there is no point’ in getting out to vote.”

However, another monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, reported “significant improvement in managing election logistics” on Saturday.

Polling units mostly opened on time and the biometric enrollment machines appeared to be “functioning pretty much adequately,” says the CDC.

In the commercial capital of Lagos, where the gubernatorial position is particularly contested, some voters were optimistic about a free and fair election.

“I am happy with the count so far… I hope the INEC will do the normal and declare the legitimate candidate the winner,” said 25-year-old nurse Pembe Adebigo, referring to the INC.

beating and arrest

LP expert Peter Obi caused a stir last month by winning the highest number of votes in Lagos state, which is the fiefdom of President-elect Bola Tinubu of the APC.

But whether the growing popularity of Obi, who came third nationally, will translate at the governor and local caucus level remains to be seen.

Tinubu wields significant influence in Lagos, with his party’s candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, running for re-election against Gbadebo Rhodes Fever (LP) and Olajide Adiran (PDP).

And while some results for state assembly seats came out on Sunday, results for the gubernatorial races weren’t yet available.

Other closely contested races took place in the southern rivers and north of Kano, while northeastern Adamawa could see the election of Nigeria’s first female ruler.

Violence was recorded in several locations on Saturday, with groups showing up at polling stations in Kano and elsewhere to intimidate voters and in some cases damage electoral materials.

In the southeastern state of Imo, where armed separatist groups are active, a group of dedicated election staff were taken hostage on Saturday morning, and while they were quickly rescued, the election materials went missing.

In Lagos, β€œat Lagbasa and Ado Primary School in Ajah, there have been reports of voters being whipped,” according to the CDD.

Amnesty International warned that these methods were “used to scare people into voting”.

“Many serious injuries ended up… This is unacceptable and must be thoroughly investigated,” the rights group said on Twitter.

As a result of the tensions, voting has been postponed in some locations – in Iti Osa district of Lagos and in Asari Toro and Dejima counties in Rivers State – and is scheduled to take place on Sunday.

Observers reported that instances of vote-buying were more prevalent than during the presidential election.

Yaga Afrika said party agents were seen donating 1,000 naira (about $2) in exchange for votes, as well as provisions of spaghetti, fabric and alcohol.

On Saturday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said it had arrested “at least 65 people … for alleged solicitation of voters”.


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