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Sporadic violence as Nigerian states vote for governors

ABUJA, Nov 12, 2023 (Net) – Violence and vote-rigging claims marred elections for governors in three Nigerian states on Saturday despite a heavy security presence.
State elections are fiercely contested in Nigeria where governors are powerful figures and clashes, kill-ings and voter intimidation are common.
Tense political rivalries played out in Bayelsa state in the south, Imo in the southeast and Kogi in the centre of the country.
The electoral commission said one of its officials was abducted, while monitoring groups said at least two people were shot, including a man allegedly running off with a ballot box.
Counting began in the afternoon and results were expected to start coming in overnight on Saturday.
The voting took place amid sweeping travel restrictions and police deployed helicopters and gunboats, while the army sent troops to “reinforce security”.
The civil society Transition Monitoring Group said a man was shot in Anyigba, Kogi state, after alleged-ly trying to “disrupt the election by snatching the ballot box.” It shared footage of a bloodied body on social media.
In a separate statement, it said “political thugs were reportedly killed by the military in Anyigba and Idah town” in Kogi.
The army and police did not respond to a request for confirmation.
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), which observed the polls, also said a person trying to flee with a ballot box in Anyigba was “shot and killed by military officials”.
It said another person was shot in Famgbe, near Bayelsa’s state capital Yenagoa, without providing fur-ther details.
– Scared to vote –
The CDD warned of low turnout at certain polling stations, saying some people were “scared of coming out to vote due to fear of violence”.
It described widespread vote-buying, with some people exchanging their ballots for handouts of rice.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said it had arrested 14 people over suspected vote-buying across the three states.
Observers were watching the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) closely after the pres-idential election earlier this year, when critics and the opposition said delays uploading results and tech-nical problems created opportunities for rigging votes.
On Friday INEC said an official was “abducted while waiting to board a boat” in Bayelsa, adding on Saturday that they had been released. Another boat carrying election documents capsized, it said, affect-ing more than 5,000 voters.
The commission also announced it was suspending the election in parts of Kogi state over reports of electoral malpractice.
INEC said it had “done everything possible to guarantee that the weekend’s election was “free, fair, and credible.”
In Imo state, local media reported scuffles as votes were collected.
Kogi state, led by the APC, was seeking to avoid a repeat of 2019 polls, which saw deadly violence and electoral malpractice.
The 2019 vote in Bayelsa was also blighted by violence and abuses including killings, abductions and intimidation.
Gift Meeting, a caterer in Yenagoa, told AFP the election was “not worth anyone dying for.”
She believes the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in power in the state, but in opposition nationally, will win comfortably in Bayelsa.
Nigeria has a long history of electoral violence since the country emerged from military rule in 1999 and many vote results end up challenged in the courts.

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