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Tensions High in Nigeria

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Nigeria’s incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari extended his early election lead yesterday based on official results from a third of the country’s districts as the death toll from sporadic poll-related violence rose to 47.

Provisional results announced in state capitals but not yet confirmed by the election commission indicated Buhari had a commanding lead of 52 percent to 44 percent over his main rival, businessman and former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari in the lead, with victories in 10 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The candidate with the most votes nationwide is declared winner as long as they have at least one-quarter of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the capital. Otherwise there is a run-off.

Atiku’s party has rejected the tallies thus far as “incorrect and unacceptable”. Buhari’s party said the opposition was trying to discredit the returns from Saturday’s election.

It may be recalled that the main opposition in Nigeria on Monday rejected provisional presidential election results declared by the electoral commission showing the ruling party in the lead, accusing the two of being in “collusion”.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said the initial results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were unacceptable, alleging the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and state security agents were working with the commission to manipulate the vote.

“The results are incorrect and unacceptable to our party. Officials of the APC, working with INEC, have decided to alter results to affect our people,” PDP chairman Uche Secondus told journalists.

“INEC must live up to its responsibility. They are under pressure. We have the facts and when the time comes, we will begin to release them,” Secondus said.

“The APC in collusion with INEC have taken aggressive steps, mostly through inducements, manipulation and incarcerations, using the elements of state power – including the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Army.”

Observers from the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations appealed to parties to wait for the results, expected later this week, before filing complaints.

Voting took place on Saturday February 23 after a week-long delay which the election commission said was due to logistical problems.

But the event – Africa’s largest democratic exercise – has been marred by violence in which 47 people have been killed since Saturday, according to the Situation Room, a monitoring organisation linking various civic groups.

Some of the deaths came about after gangs allied to either of the leading parties clashed with each other and police over theft of ballot boxes and vote fraud. Police have not yet provided casualty figures.

More than 260 people have been killed in total since the start of the campaign in October. The toll is lower than in previous elections but in the past, the worst unrest broke out after results were announced.

Nigeria is Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy but it is struggling to emerge from a 2016 recession and corruption is rife.

A decade-old Islamist insurgency has disrupted life in the northeast and killed thousands of people, many of them civilians.

Buhari, 76, is a former military ruler seeking a second term with pledges to fight corruption while overhauling the country’s creaking road and rail network.

Atiku, 72, says he will aim to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025, privatise the state oil company and expand the role of the private sector.

On the streets of Abuja, people had a mixed reaction to the way the election unfolded in a country where six decades of independence have been marred by long periods of military rule, coups and secessionist wars.

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