Nigeria Election Results Due to Start Trickling InMarch 30, 2015 in Nigeria
After an election weekend that was marred by confusion and occasional violence, results from Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections is due to start trickling in late Monday/early Tuesday, however the opposition party has already rejected the outcome in Rivers state and has stated that the polls were “a sham and a charade,” prompting fears that violence may erupt once the results are announced.
Violence and Confusion
Saturday’s parliamentary and presidential elections were marred by technical hitches and violence linked to Boko Haram.
Voting in some parts of Nigeria was extended to Sunday after problems occurred with the new electronic card readers. President Goodluck Jonathan was amongst those whose registration to vote was delayed because of the technology, which was introduced in order to prevent fraud. His Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which opposed the card readers, called it a “huge national embarrassment,” while election commission chief Attahiru Jega disclosed that only a fraction of the 150,000 card readers being used nationwide had failed.
Boko Haram maintained its promise of disrupting the elections, attacking several polling stations in northeastern Nigeria, which prompted officials to declare a curfew in Bauchi state after fighting erupted between troops and the insurgents.
- 29 March – In the wake of troops fighting Boko Haram fighters outside of Bauchi city, the state capital of Bauchi, authorities have imposed an indefinite lockdown on three areas. On the ground sources have reported that late Sunday, soldiers, supported by two fighter jets, intercepted the militants who were in 20 pick-up trucks at Dungulbe village, which is located seven kilometres (four miles) from the state capital. The troops engaged them in fierce fighting, with a military officer in the city disclosing “the fighter jets are pounding the enemy position while ground troops are engaging them… The operation is still on-going but the terrorists have suffered serious losses and are in disarray.” Residents reported that the insurgents arrived in Dungulbe at around 10:00 am (0900 GMT) and set up camp in preparation for an invasion of the city. The militants are believed to have come through the town of Alkaleri, which is 60 kilometres (37 miles) away, where they carried out a dawn raid on Saturday. A spokesman for the Bacuhi state governor disclosed that an indefinite, round-the-clock curfew had been imposed on three areas, Bauchi, Kirfi and Alkaleri, because of the fighting, stating that it was imposed in order to “…enable security agencies to restore normalcy in the affected areas… By this curfew, residents of the three affected local governments are to remain in their homes until further notice.” The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the Bauchi state governorship, Mohammed Abullahi Abubakar, has blamed the curfew on his political opponents, claiming “the curfew was only an attempt by the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) to tinker with the results of the elections.”
- 28 March – At least seven people were killed in separate attacks in the northeastern Nigerian state of Gombe on Saturday, with suspected Boko Haram militants opening fire on voters at polling stations. The first attacks took place in the neighbouring villages of Birin Bolawa and Birin Fulani in the Nafada district of Gombe, which has been repeatedly targeted by the militant group. According to an election official, “we could hear the gunmen shouting, ‘Didn’t we warn you about staying away from (the) election?’” The election official disclosed that the masked gunmen arrived in Birin Bolawa in a pickup truck at around 8:30 AM (0730 GMT), shortly after accreditation for Saturday’s presidential elections had begun. One voter was shot dead while many civilians fled in panic. On the ground sources have disclosed that the gunmen had set fire to all the election materials. The second attack occurred at about 9:15AM. At about 11:30 AM, gunmen stormed the town of Dukku, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the state capital Gombe. Residents reported that the gunmen shot randomly as voters queued up at polling stations. At least three people, including a state assembly lawmaker, were killed in the attack. Last month, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau warned in a video message that the militants would disrupt Saturday’s general elections, which they have called “un-Islamic.” Officials have disclosed that there were twenty-eight Boko Haram attacks in the three weeks after the delay was announced, compared with eighteen that occurred in the three weeks beforehand, effectively representing an increase of 56 percent.
- Police officials disclosed Saturday morning that an explosion struck a polling station at a primary school in the city of Awka. The attack, which occurred Saturday morning, claimed no casualties. According to Uche Eze, police spokesman for Anambra state, of which Awka is the capital, “no lives were lost and none injured. The police bomb squad has moved in.” The state of Anambra has often been affected by political thuggery around election time.
- Gunmen shot dead a Nigerian soldier in an ambush that occurred in the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt on Saturday. According to Brigadier-General K.A. Essien confirmed the attack however military officials have not released any further details pertaining to the incident.
- On Saturday, a bomb exploded at a polling station in a primary school in the northeastern city of Enugu. The attack occurred hours before the polling station opened. Enugu police spokesman Stephen Lar confirmed that attack, disclosing, “no life was lost but there were blood stains on the vehicle that conveyed the bomb showing the occupant may have been injured.”
- Suspected Boko Haram gunmen attacked public buildings and security checkpoints in the northeastern town of Alkaleri. According to on the ground sources, a police station, the office of the paramilitary Nigeria Security and Civil Defense force and the local electoral commission premises were all burned to the ground.
- An official disclosed Saturday that suspected Boko Haram gunmen beheaded twenty-three people and set fire to homes in Buratai, northeastern Nigeria, on the eve of the country’s general elections. According to Mohammed Adamu, who represents the town, which is located 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Borno’s capital Maiduguri, “there was an attack on Buratai late Friday by gunmen suspected to be insurgents…They beheaded 23 people and set homes on fire,” adding “at least half the village has been burnt.” At least thirty-two people were injured in the attack. While further details pertaining to the incident were not immediately available, the attack is consistent with Boko Haram’s past strikes in the area.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) initially indicated that the first results from 120,000 polling stations nationwide would be available Sunday evening, officials have since pushed this back, with the results now not expected to be released until either late Monday or early Tuesday. Sources have disclosed that turnout amongst the 56.7 million registered voters appears to have been high.
As millions of Nigerians wait for the results, tensions remain high and fears are growing that violence, which already erupted in some parts of the country on Sunday, may spread.
Thousands of supporters of the main opposition party demonstrated on Sunday in the state of Rivers, with many calling for the cancellation of elections locally over alleged irregularities. This prompted local police to fire warning shots in a bid to disperse the crowd. One group stoned a car they though was carrying the ballots. Demonstrators supporting the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the INEC in the state capital, Port Harcourt. According to River state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside, “we are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday).” Mr Peterside alleges that APC supporters across the southern state were “disenfranchised by INEC, working in connivance with (the) PDP.” He alleges that results sheets, which in Nigerian elections are given at every polling station to both the local electoral commission and party representatives after the count, were not provided and that instead “INEC in collaboration with (the) Peoples Democratic Party hijacked the materials and were filling them in private homes for the PDP.” Mr Peterside has called for the presidential and parliamentary elections to be re-held in the state. Protests continued on Monday, prompting police to use tear gas to disperse the demonstration, which was carried out by at least 100 female APC protesters. INEC chairman Attahiru Jega has disclosed that he is investigating the complaints. The southern state is seen as a key battleground for the presidential election.
In an increasing sign that the opposition will likely challenge the results, the APC governor of the southern Imo state, Rochas Okorocha, denounced the conduct of the election in his region, accusing the military of meddling in the result. Meanwhile in Bauchi state, hundreds of youths gathered outside the INEC office shouting APC slogans and shouting that they would protect their vote from rigging. The military fired warning shots to disperse the crowds.
Despite some violence and technical difficulties, on Monday, the African Union (AU) praised the conduct of Nigeria’s general election however officials have urged the political parties to resolve any disputes in court. In its preliminary findings, the African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) disclosed that the vote was “conducted in a peaceful atmosphere within the framework that satisfactorily meets the continental and regional principles of democratic elections.” Regional bloc ECOWAS also urged Nigerians to accept the results.
The United Nations Secretary General also congratulated Nigeria for holding a “largely peaceful and orderly” ballot, however Ban Ki-moon called on citizens to “maintain a peaceful atmosphere and to exercise patients.” The Secretary also condemned attacks carried out by Boko Haram and other militants who attempted to disrupt the presidential and parliamentary polls.