Nigeria’s Buhari looks to consolidate at state polls

Nigerians on Saturday voted for a second time in a fortnight in governorship and state assembly elections, as monitors expressed concerns about political violence, vote-buying and an increased military presence.
Elections for governors were being held in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, for all state assemblies, plus the administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.
Voting was mostly peaceful but there were reports of vandalism, violence and vote buying, including deaths on Friday night.
Some election workers also protested at the non-payment of their salaries while voting was delayed because of technical issues with biometric card readers.
The Situation Room umbrella of more than 70 civil society monitoring groups warned about an “escalation of violence between and within political parties and their supporters”.
In several states the “partisanship of security agencies” and “an intimidating presence of military personnel,” was a concern the group said, reporting that military fighter jets had been deployed in parts of the country. President Muhammadu Buhari will be expecting to consolidate his victory on February 23, when he won 19 states to secure a second, four-year term of office.
His All Progressives Congress (APC) currently controls 22 states while the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 13. The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has one.
Governors are powerful and influential figures in Nigeria’s federal politics, controlling state finances, where they are responsible for key areas including education to health. They can also provide a strong collective voice in Abuja. State-level elections are often predicted to broadly mirror presidential polling and this year come amid concerns about the role of security forces during the vote.
Similar incidents of disruption and unrest hit last month’s polling when at least 53 people were killed, with fears that safety could hit turnout this time round.
Two people were killed and 35 vehicles destroyed in violence between party supporters in the southwest state of Lagos on Friday, the Situation Room said. In the southern states of Ebonyi and Bayelsa, two people were killed in each state, according to local reports, with a further three killed in the volatile state of Rivers, according to transport minister Rotimi Amaechi.
The director for the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, said there were improvements from the last poll but challenges remained. — AFP

Emmanuel Akinwotu