Home » POLITICS » Violence, intimidation taint governorship poll in Akwa Ibom
electoral observer in Nigeria

An electoral observer display a bullet shell that was fired by thugs in one of the polling stations in Uyo, Nigeria, Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Photo Credit: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba

Gunfire, ballot box thefts and fleeing poll workers plagued Nigeria’s state gubernatorial races Tuesday, as the oil-rich nation struggled to vote amid violence after the country’s presidential poll earlier this month left at least 500 people dead.

The stability of Africa’s most populous nation is at stake as it concludes voting that began on April 9 with parliamentary elections. The gubernatorial races, being held in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states, draw politicians hungry for control of state budgets that dwarf those of neighboring nations.

In the southern Nigerian village of Ikot Efum, witnesses said gunmen stormed a polling station, fired Kalashnikov rifles into the air and stole the yet-to-be-used ballot papers and ballot box before dragging off an election official as well. The two police officers assigned to the polling center carried no weapons of their own and merely sat down after the attack.

Down the road, a station wagon was engulfed in flames. Witnesses said local gang members torched the car after someone tried to alert authorities.

Problems had begun even before polls opened Tuesday. About 700 members of Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps, who were supposed to run polling stations, already had been evacuated from states in the country’s Muslim north hit by violence last week, said Yushau Shuaib, a spokesman for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency.

“I just left,” said a 25-year-old woman who had been serving in the northern state of Gombe as a poll worker. “Very few corps members are left in the state because we were not safe.”

The one-year service program is mandatory for Nigerians who graduate from college before the age of 30. Rules prohibit them from speaking to the media.

Election officials and some university students took over unstaffed polling stations. But many polls opened several hours after they should have and angry voters heckled the election workers who struggled to have voting begin on time.

“The people are yearning for change,” said Gregory Okonfua, an observer for a coalition of monitoring groups called Project 2011 Swift Count.

In Uyo, about 360 miles (580 kilometers) from Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, party observers pushed and shoved each other at a polling center where gubernatorial opposition candidate John James Akpan Udoedehe cast his ballot. Udoedehe has faced treason and murder charges in recent weeks, charges his lawyer describe as political smears.

Despite receiving threats, Udoedehe said he believed it remained important for people to vote to show that Nigeria has advanced as a democracy after only 12 years of civilian rule.

“Freedom is not a la carte,” he said. “You have to work hard at it.”

Officials had estimated that 40,000 people fled their homes amid postelection violence and retaliatory attacks following the April 16 presidential election. It is not clear how many have returned. Nigerians had to be physically present in the neighborhood where they vote before movement restrictions went into effect early Tuesday.

Officials have postponed the governors’ races in the two northern areas hardest hit by violence that erupted after the presidential election — Kaduna and Bauchi states — until Thursday.

In Nigeria’s northeast, an explosion at a hotel killed three people and wounded 14 others in the city of Maiduguri on Sunday, police said. While no one claimed responsibility for that attack, a radical Muslim sect recently vowed to keep fighting there. Another blast went off early Tuesday in the town but no casualties were reported.

“We the ordinary citizens … are not scared of these bombings and killings on elections days,” said Adamu Musa, a 55-year-old farmer in Maiduguri, insisting that candidates could address poverty, unemployment and the security problems.

However, polling centers in several areas of Borno state reported Tuesday that turnout had dropped by more than 50 percent compared to the elections held earlier this month. Police also shot and killed a man who allegedly attempted to steal a ballot box.


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    2 Responses to “Violence, intimidation taint governorship poll in Akwa Ibom”

    1. Firstly the author of this story is obviously misguided about his facts. There is no village called Ikot Efum anywhere in Southern Nigeria. Secondly Lagos is more then 960 km away from Uyo and thirdly i voted in Akwa Ibom State in ward 4 in Eka Uruk Eshiet and there was not a hint of any violence anywhere. This article is untrue as far as i know.

    2. Gregory August 19, 2013

      Well Ekong, the report is very true. Ikot Effum is actually a community in Ibiono LGA of Akwa Ibom State - South-south Nigeria where I supervised the elections. In Ikot Antono also in Ibiono, 2 people were shot dead by political thugs who hijacked election materials. I was there myself and i saw it all. What is reported in this story is not the complete report. Because your centre was calm does not mean it was the same in other places.