ABUJA: Nigeria today started counting votes of the April 9 parliamentary elections, even as isolated poll violence killed at least 10 people and wounded several others during the polls, in Africa’s most populous nation.
The election, however, was considered generally peaceful and fair by the observers as compared to previous polls — an improvement attributable to new voter registration method that included thumb printing.
The parliamentary polls in the oil-rich nation of 150 million people were postponed last week after election material failed to reach many areas.
The final result of the polls is expected to be out in 48 hours, after the counting process is completed.
A bomb blast at a polling station in northern state of Maiduguri yesterday killed 10 people, including a police woman on duty, a day after an explosion claimed 5 lives at an Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) office in northern Niger state.
The National Human Rights Commission issued a statement to politicians and their supporters warning of possible prosecution under local and international laws if they indulge in violence.
“No part of this process requires the deployment of bombs or combat weaponry… Let politicians and their supporters be aware that the long arm of domestic or international law will, in due course, catch up with those who promote violence and mayhem in their inordinate quest for power.” the commission said.
Whereas, a few areas tried to replay the old habit of ballot snatching and multiple voting, an overwhelming majority were cautious of the inevitability of vote voiding due to advent of new technology.
A diplomat on condition of anonymity said the counting was a remarkable improvement from what was obtainable in the past.
“At the areas I went to in Abuja, the capital territory, I discovered very good conduct on the part of election officers. Surprisingly, CPC was leading in an area formerly known as a stronghold of ruling PDP (People’s Democratic Party).”
In south eastern state of Abia, a voter Chioma Ubani said there was no sign of election malpractices in a polling station she voted at in Eziala-Nsulu community in Isiala Ngwa North local government area.
“Unlike before when some politicians would come to hijack polling materials in front of seemingly intimidated locals, it was not like that this time around. Everything went smoothly and the only problem I noticed was that many did not thumbprint well and this may lead to vote voiding,” she added.
Previous elections have been described as flawed by international observers and the ruling (PDP) was seen as culpable in election rigging.
The parliamentary polls will be followed by presidential elections on April 16 and governorship on April 26. Fifteen senatorial districts and 48 federal constituencies will not participate in the present election but would have to wait till April 26, the same day governors will be elected.
On the whole, 360 seats are being contested for in the lower house of representatives while 109 seats are for the senate.
For yesterday’s polls, land borders were closed to forestall any interference by foreigners in the elections, but some aliens from neighbouring Niger Republic were sent home after being found with voting materials.
Military rule ended here in 1999 and the oil rich African country has held election every four years but international observers have described them as flawed.