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Violence Threatens Nigerian Elections

As Nigeria's election day draws near, the tide of political violence is rising. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja that the use of violence as a political tool has been common in Nigeria.

Local press reports suggest more than 50 people may have been killed in pre-election violence in Nigeria, and hundreds have been injured.

Gunmen attacked an opposition Action Congress party rally Monday in the largest city, Lagos, disrupting the event and hurting at least two people. Lagos state governor Bola Tinubu, party candidates, and supporters fled the venue as shots were fired.

The spokesman Lai Mohammed of Action Congress, or AC, says the ruling Peoples Democratic Party is to blame.

He said, "Given the no love lost between the PDP [People Democratic Party] and AC [Action Congress] in Lagos, if AC is having a rally and there is shooting, it is safe to assume that it will not come from AC, very likely to be from the PDP."

The ruling party has denied any responsibility.

Opposition elements have accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of stoking political violence with his comment that upcoming elections would be "a do-or- die" event for the PDP. The president since said that his statement was not meant to incite violence.

Nigeria's election commission chairman Maurice Iwu is equally worried about the threat posed by political unrest.

"I think the violence is very sad. Frankly, the issue of violence, I see it as terrorism against the people," he said. "These are people who are poor ... usually these are the people they use."

"None of these politicians will allow his own son or daughter to be involved in violence. I think it is double punishment. You misrepresent somebody; you will go and use him to kill himself. It is really horrible," he continued.

Nigeria will hold state governor elections on April 14, and presidential and legislative elections will follow one week later.

Nigeria, the world's sixth largest oil producer, has a history of political violence. The last elections in 2003 left scores dead and many others injured

The Nigerian police are to receive 80,000 guns and 32 million rounds of ammunition in preparation for the elections.