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Nigerian Election Official: Presidential Poll Will Proceed as Scheduled


Election officials in Nigeria have rejected accusations they are doing a bad job, saying candidates who have complaints should seek remedy in the courts. The spokesman for the electoral commission assured Nigerian voters the weekend presidential elections will take place on schedule despite ongoing problems. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Abuja.

Spokesman for the embattled election commission, Philip Umeadi, was on the defensive when confronted with media accusations that the panel was incompetent.

"We are looking at a very, very suspicious electorate,” he said. “But within the limits of our ability we are doing what we can."

Recently reinstated presidential opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar said he has no confidence the commission can organize a free and fair vote. Spokesman Umeadi said that is just one man's opinion.

"There are a lot of people also who have said on television that they are satisfied with the election,” he said. “So it is his opinion and you have to respect it. I have to respect it as well. So there are different people who have different opinions about the conduct of the elections. So asking me what I feel about it, is like you want me to join issues with his opinion, I will not do that. It is his opinion, and you have to respect it."

Abubakar, along with several prominent gubernatorial candidates, was initially barred from running because of alleged corruption. But the Supreme Court ruled this week the commission did not have the authority to disqualify the candidates.

Umeadi says gubernatorial candidates, for whom it is too late to run or those who believe they were victims of fraud, as has been widely reported, should take their grievances to the courts.

He said the election commission should not be blamed for the violence and the theft of ballot boxes during last week's elections.

"If we were immune, if we had immunity, if we had any inherent immunity to AK-47 bullets we would probably resist any attempt to snatch our ballot boxes, our ballot papers, we would resist it,” he said. “But we do not. So when you have AK-47s being pointed at your head, you will surrender whatever you have. So these are some the things that substantially affect the elections in so many ways."

Umeadi said presidential elections will go ahead next Saturday as originally scheduled and Abubakar's name will be placed on the ballots. "You can take that to the bank," he assured the voters on Nigerian television.

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