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Nigerian Observers, Electoral Body Involved in Accreditation Dispute


The Transition Monitoring Group, an umbrella group for domestic election monitors in Nigeria, is accusing the country's electoral commission of denying it accreditation to observe Saturday's polls. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the deployment of election monitors is regarded as crucial to enhancing public confidence in the elections.

The Transition Monitoring Group, or TMG, Nigeria's largest election observer group, plans to deploy 15,000 observers throughout the country for Saturday's regional polls.

Emma Ezeazu, head of Alliance for Credible Elections, one of several groups affiliated with TMG, says the electoral commission has granted limited authorization cards to domestic observers.

"Thousands and thousands of domestic observers who have been trained to monitor these elections have not been given authorization cards by INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] to monitor the elections," he said. "The TMG which is supposed to deploy 15,000 monitors to the field have only just 200 and something cards and that is a far cry from the 15,000 that they applied for."

The United States called on Nigeria Thursday to give domestic and international election observers full and transparent access to the elections.

Hundreds of international observers are in Nigeria for the April 14 regional elections and for national elections on the Apri 21. The polls are expected to lead to Nigeria's first transfer of presidential power from one civilian administration to another since independence in 1960. President Olusegun Obasanjo who is finishing up a second four-year term, is barred from seeking a third.

Rights groups have warned of possible violence and vote rigging in favor of Mr. Obasanjo's hand-picked successor, Umar Yar'Adua.

Election commission spokesman Segun Adeoye says the body has no plans to deny any group authorization to monitor the elections. He admitted, however, that a dispute over accreditation procedures may prevent the commission from recognizing TMG election observers.

"There are quite a number of NGOs [Non Governmental Organizations] that applied directly to us and who happened to be working with the TMG. We believe that if your own organization applies to us, we are under every obligation to recognize you as an organization, which TMG is not happy about," he said. "The TMG is saying we should not recognize those people, we should allow them to come through the TMG. And we are saying no, all these people are credible organizations, like the Nigeria Bar Association."

Analysts say the outcome of Saturday's elections will provide a clue as to what to expect in next weekend's crucial presidential ballot.