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Nigerian Opposition Criticizes Election


Some of Nigeria's leading opposition parties have condemned Saturday's landmark presidential vote and complained of widespread fraud. Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA that at least one of the parties is considering a legal challenge.

The Action Congress, one of Nigeria's two main opposition parties has dismissed the country's presidential election as a sham. The Action Congress is the party of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is contesting as an opposition candidate after falling out with President Olusegun Obasanjo last year.

Party spokesman Lai Mohammed told VOA the electoral commission had shown downright incompetence and lack of a political will to conduct credible polls.

"Reports reaching us from the states and on the field, from polling booth to polling booth is quite discouraging," said Lai Mohammed. "It is either there are not enough materials or materials arrived very late. Election materials for six local governments in Cross River arrived only this morning. The ballot paper itself has no serial number and no control; anybody can go and print it. The police, the military have joined the PDP [ruling Peoples Democratic Party] to harass opposition electorates. How do you expect a free and fair election in this scenario?"

Another leading opposition party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, has also denounced the conduct of the vote and is considering a legal challenge.

The Transition Monitoring Group, Nigeria's largest local election observer group, has been equally disparaging in its assessment of the election.

The election was marred by violence, intimidation and fraud, casting a huge question mark over its credibility. The exercise was to lead to the first handover from one civilian president to another since Nigeria's independence from Britain in 1960.

Electoral Commission Chairman Maurice Iwu acknowledged some problems with the vote, including late arrival of materials. But he said the commission performed creditably well, given the circumstance.

"We had an emergency," said Maurice Iwu. "We did not know that the Supreme Court judgment would come on Monday. And because of the tension and the suspicion, we could not use the fallback position, which is to print a name on the already printed ballot . If you know what it took to respond to that emergency, for you to move that much, 65 million ballot papers between 10 o'clock, and to use it it 12 hours later, I think it was near miracle."

The ruling party is leading in the few results released from legislative elections.

Troops reportedly shot three boys in the northern town of Daura during a protest against alleged rigging in Saturday's election. Sporadic cases of violence were also reported across the country.

A local newspaper reported that 16 policemen died during Saturday's vote. More than 50 people were killed a week earlier during elections for state officials.