NIGERIA: Local polls marred by fraud, killings and voter apathy
A Nigerian woman casts her ballot
Lagos, 29 March 2004 (IRIN) - Nigeria’s ruling party has taken a huge lead in local council elections which were marred by allegations of massive rigging, and violence in which at least 17 people died , according to partial results released on Monday.
They showed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) capturing more than 80 percent of local councils in 13 out of 18 states where it already controlled the state government.
The PDP controls 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states and was expected to achieve similar success in its remaining strongholds where results had not yet been declared.
All the results from Saturday’s poll released so far show a pattern of parties sweeping the board in the states they already govern and where they were responsible for appointing electoral officials.
The main opposition All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) won control of all 77 local councils in its northern stronghold states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Gombe.
Nigeria’s third biggest party, the Alliance for Democracy, meanwhile swept all the 57 councils in Lagos State, which it controls.
The remainder of Nigeria’s 30 registered political parties have only managed to elect a smattering of councillors and have so far failed to gain control of a single council.
The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a coalition of local rights and civil society groups which deployed 5,000 observers to monitor the election, accused the three major parties of manipulating the vote in their favour in states they controlled.
“The results released are not a surprise to us because the various state governors had already made up their mind to capture their local governments by all means,” Festus Okoye, TMG chairman, told IRIN.
Turnout was generally low. An IRIN correspondent who toured polling stations in the southern oil town of Warri observed that in some cases less than 20 percent of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot and many polling stations closed early.
Ibrahim Modibo, a spokesman for the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) - a forum for 18 opposition parties - said in a statement that the PDP was guilty of “outright rigging and complete circumvention of the ballot box”.
“As far as we’re concerned there was monumental rigging and the result is unacceptable to us,” Modibo told IRIN.
There was a similar opposition outcry over widespread irregularities in last year’s presidential, parliamentary and state elections, which saw Obasanjo and his PDP re-elected with landslide majorities.
However, PDP spokesman Venatius Ikem countered that it was not unusual for political parties to allege rigging when they lost an election. “We worked harder than they as usual in our campaigns,” he added, explaining the PDP’s latest win.
As anticipated, the polling day was marred by violence, which resulted in at least 17 deaths nationwide, according to local newspaper reports.
About 20 people were killed in violent incidents in Plateau state in central Nigeria on Friday, but these appeared to be unrelated to the election.
Obasanjo had deployed the army ahead of the polls to bolster the police and try to ensure a peaceful election. Voting took place in 34 out of Nigeria’s 36 states. Anambra state in southeastern Nigeria said it wasn’t ready and Sokoto state in the northwest held its own local council elections two months ago.