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US Urges Nigeria to Fully Investigate Vote Fraud Complaints - 2003-04-25

The United States Thursday urged Nigerian authorities to fully investigate complaints of fraud from last Saturday's voting that election officials said returned incumbent President Olusegun Obasanjo to power by a big margin.

In a statement volunteered to reporters, the State Department noted without comment the Nigerian electoral commission's declaration that Mr. Obasanjo had won the election. But at the same time, it congratulated the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian people for what it said was their peaceful and patient exercise of their voting rights, and what was termed their "unwavering commitment to building democracy in the country."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the widespread violence predicted and feared by many in connection with the election did not happen. However, he said international and local election monitors reported witnessing irregularities and procedural flaws, especially in the ballot counting process, in at least 12 of the African country's 36 states.

Mr. Boucher urged those with complaints of misconduct to present evidence to the appropriate tribunals, which he said should act on them in a timely and impartial manner and take corrective action. "Nigeria's law provides for investigation of these complaints. We commend those political leaders who have called on their supporters to remain calm. We call on the parties to resolve differences through peaceful and legal means," he said. "We appeal to the parties, the Obasanjo administration, and the National Assembly to act expeditiously to end electoral abuses and to insure the integrity of the electoral system."

According to official results, Mr. Obasanjo a former military ruler who won election as a civilian in 1999, won 62 per cent of the more than 40 million votes cast, easily beating his main rival, Muhammadu Buhari, another one-time military chief.

The presidential inauguration May 29 is to mark the first time in the country's post-independence history that one civilian administration succeeds another, but the process has been clouded by the alleged vote fraud.

European Union election observers said Tuesday the vote was marred by serious irregularities though Commonwealth monitors took a milder tone, saying that, despite irregularities in some states, the vote in most of the country was a genuine and largely successful exercise in democracy.