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Nigerian Police Confident of Handling Election Violence


Top Nigerian police officers have been meeting before this month's crucial general elections. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports that rising political violence before the polls has created concern in a country with a history of political violence.

Police chief Sunday Ehindero and his top officers are reviewing the security situation in Nigeria, barely 72 hours before Saturday's governor and state assembly elections.

The Nigerian press has reported the killing of more than 70 people in political violence in the past five months, raising the prospect of uncontrolled violence and intimidation on voting day.

Police spokesman Haz Iwendi says the police hierarchy is working on a number of strategies to ensure a hitch-free poll.

"The commissioners of police and AIGs [Assistant Inspectors General of Police] are here right now, from all over the federation, to finalize all the strategies for the elections," he said. "We have received vehicles. We have five helicopters, 2,500 vehicles are on ground and all the men have gone on training. And of course, we have got new fire arms and riot drills, even the Americans gave us some riot equipment."

The police confirmed that a number of state have been identified as potential flashpoints and may require extra attention from security forces.

Five people were killed Tuesday in the southwestern town of Ibadan when supporters of two rival parties clashed during a campaign rally.

Iwendi says six trouble-prone states are being monitored to stop possible outbreak of violence.

"We have identified about six states that are flashpoints out of 37. So, I think we can contain these and we are already strategizing on them," he added.

Tensions are rising in Nigeria before a crucial presidential ballot. The election is expected to choose a successor to President Olusegun Obasanjo whose second four-year term in office ends May 29.

State governors and state assembly polls are scheduled for April 14, while presidential and national assembly elections are fixed for April 21.

Violence and controversy have marred almost all of Nigeria's elections since it gained independence from Britain in 1960.

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