Nigeria election observers criticize intimidation, violence
WARRI, Nigeria (AP) — Violence, intimidation and voter apathy led to low turnout in Nigeria’s elections for governors of 29 states over the weekend, election observers said Monday
Nigeria’s electoral commission suspended all election activities in two southern states, Rivers and Akwa Ibom, due to the chaos.
European Union observers noted “systematic failings, including a lack of transparency” but said it was an improvement over the presidential election on Feb. 23.
Its statement said observers were denied access to vote compilation centers in Rivers state.
The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute joint observer mission in a separate statement said a heavy military presence undermined the integrity of the vote in some parts of Africa’s most populous nation.
Nigeria’s military has blamed any crimes on people impersonating soldiers. Army spokesman Col. Sagir Musa said several of those arrested gave information authorities hope leads to prosecutions.
At least eight deaths were reported on Saturday.
Some gubernatorial races had been expected to be more contentious than the presidential vote, won easily by incumbent Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria’s two top political parties vied for control of powerful states that in certain cases have larger budgets than some African nations.
Both elections had been postponed by a week in a last-minute decision as the electoral commission cited numerous logistical problems in a country of some 190 million people and poor infrastructure.
The turnout in the presidential election was just 35 percent, continuing a downward trend.
On Saturday, vote-buying for as little as 100 naira (28 cents) and a bar of soap was reported by election observers in northern Kano state, while observers and officials elsewhere noted scattered incidents of ballot-snatching.
In the latest attack on an election facility, residents said suspected hoodlums on Sunday evening burned down the local electoral commission office in Ngor Okpala in Imo state.
“Armed thugs suspected to be working for politicians invaded the building during the election results collation, overpowered the few security men on duty and set the building on fire,” said Paul Okorafor, a shopkeeper.
The Imo state police commissioner, Dasuki Galadanchi, said more than 100 people were arrested for various election-related offenses.
AP writer Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.
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