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Nigerian Police Say 21 Dead In Polling Day Violence


As results of Saturday's state governor and legislator elections are being tallied, Nigeria's national police chief, Sunday Ehindiro, said that 21 people had died in election day violence - but that figure could rise. Sarah Simpson reports from Lagos.

Votes are still being counted in Nigeria, as is the number of dead after pockets of election day violence across the country.

Inspector General, Sunday Ehindiro appeared on national television Sunday morning, saying scores of killings had been logged by police, and several of the dead were police officers.

"About 87 cases, were made. There could be more than that," Ehindiro says. "Those are the ones that have just been collated. And we have made about 218 arrests at a cost of about 21 persons, including some policemen too."

National newspapers, which have large networks of journalists across Nigeria's 36 states, say there are indications as many as 52 people died in isolated incidents of violence, and hundreds more were injured.

Typical incidents included shootings during robberies of ballot boxes and ballot papers, say newspaper reports and Inspector General Ehindiro.

"We have noted the offenses that are committed in this election - unlawful possessions of firearms, snatching of ballot papers - although they are localized," Ehindiro says.

The national press says most of the deaths were recorded in southern Nigeria.

Saturday's poll is important as state governors can potentially have a substantive impact on Nigerians' lives. Governors control spending on services such as education and health.

Previous elections in 2003 were marred by allegations of rigging and intimidation. In the commercial capital of Lagos Saturday many said they would not vote as the result had already been decided.

Saturday's poll is considered to be a litmus test for presidential elections on 21 April.

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