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Opposition Party Demands Poll Cancellation in Nigeria

  • Gilbert da Costa

An opposition party in Nigeria has filed an action in court seeking to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission from conducting next month's general elections. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that this is the latest in a series of critical challenges facing the landmark elections.

The National Democratic Party says the process leading to the elections is deeply flawed.

The NDP blames the electoral commission for the lapses and is demanding the postponement or cancellation of the April vote.

Party spokesman Kassim Afeagbu says the electoral body has flagrantly disregarded laws guiding the elections, particularly the requirement that a register of voters should be published at least 60 days before general elections.

"We are asking the court for a perpetual injunction restraining INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] from conducting elections, because they have not given political parties and the Nigerian electorate an authentic voters register as provided for by law," said Afeagbu. "The law says you should do that 60 days to elections. So from our own estimation, we are saying they have violated the provisions of the law."

The electoral commission maintains there has been no breach of the law and dismisses the challenge.

"It is just unfortunate that somebody is claiming that we have not displayed the voter register," says Segun Adeogun, the electoral commission's spokesman. "By our program, the voters register was supposed to have been displayed in the month of February and this was done in all the states of the federation. The register was displayed in all the centers where the compilation was done. So, for somebody to come and say that the register was not displayed, to me it is very funny."

Preparation for the crucial vote has been riddled with serious problems, prompting a groundswell of discontent and concern among Nigerians.

But Emma Ezeazu, of the elections watchdog Alliance for Credible Elections, says despite glaring shortcomings the elections must go on.

"The Alliance for Credible Elections will like these elections to hold," she said. "Our aim is that the elections must hold and that the present incumbent must hand over power by May 29th. Having said that, it is clear, it is very true that INEC never displayed any voter register. They claim to have done so, but all our investigations across the country, we did not see any voter register displayed."

Voting for the country's 36 state governors and state parliaments is to take place April 14, followed by elections for president and the federal legislature a week later.

There have been assassinations and fighting between supporters of opposing candidates.

The uncertainty over whether Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be able to contest is adding to the tension.

The elections are expected to deliver the first transition from one elected president to another in Africa's most populous country.

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