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Still Awaiting The Election Results In Nigeria - 2003-04-21

Nigerians are still waiting for the results of Saturday's presidential election. A U-S-based election observer group says the voting was relatively peaceful and well organized. The group says there were serious and troubling irregularities in some areas of the country.

The International Republican Institute says that the Nigerian presidential and gubernatorial election was relatively well conducted under sometimes difficult circumstances.

But one of the senior observers, former U-S Ambassador Robert Perry, said there were serious irregularities in some regions that could undermine the results.

He says, "The April 19th presidential and gubernatorial elections suffered in some parts of Nigeria, as a result of numerous uncorrected administrative and procedural errors, combined with many observed instances of obvious premeditated electoral fraud."

The institute said it was not issuing a statement about the entire election, only about the parts of the poll its observers directly monitored. Forty-two International Republican Institute observers monitored voting and counting in 12 of Nigeria's 36 states.

The institute says the most serious problems occurred in three southern regions; Rivers state, Cross Rivers state; and Imo state. The observers say they saw direct evidence of ballot box stuffing and results falsification in those three states.

But in three other central and northern state; Katsina, Kogi and Nassarawa, the International Republican Institute observers say they saw cause for concern, including polling stations that returned 100-percent of their ballots for a single party.

International Republican Institute Chairman George Folsom says the people of Nigeria deserved a better election than the one they got.

He says, "[The International Republican Institute] recognizes that the Nigerian people are on a journey to perfect their democracy. The Institute compliments the Nigerian people for their patient and largely peaceful exercise of their right to vote. But clearly, the political parties, the administration, political parties and national assembly must make improvements to meet the increased expectations of Nigerians."

The International Republican Institute would not identify the parties responsible for most of the election irregularities, but Mr. Folsom did say he saw chicanery by more than one party. He said the identification will come in the group's final report, next month.

But the institute urged the parties who think they were hurt by the electoral fraud to seek redress legally and peacefully. He said that looking for justice outside of legal channels would perpetuate disrespect for the law and the democratic system.

The main opposition presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, warned before the election that he would call for mass action by his supporters if he felt the poll was stolen.

The verdicts of the bigger international observer groups have not been released. The European Union and the Commonwealth group of nations sent hundreds of observers to monitor the poll. They probably will not issue any formal statements until after the final results have been announced.