Voter apathy apparent in Nigeria’s local elections

Abuja, Nigeria – Millions of eligible voters in Nigeria stayed away from casting their ballot to elect governors and state assembly members, amid reports of heavy military deployment and violence.

Saturday’s election comes two weeks after Muhammadu Buharisecured a second term in a delayed presidential vote.

“I came out to vote but the place is empty as you can see and the low turnout shows a major trust deficit about the electoral process,” housewife Mary Suleiman told Al Jazeera.

“Abuja residents are not as interested in the local council elections as compared to the Presidential polls, but the outcome of the last polls led to today’s turn out,” Suleiman said.

There was delayed voting in some cities due to late arrival of materials, according to election monitors.

There were reports of allegations of vote rigging in southern Abia state.

Election observers also reported incidents of vote buying was across the country as politicians tried to sway voters.

President Buhari’s win challenged by Nigeria’s opposition

About 120,000 polling stations opened at 07:00 GMT across Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer, but idle electoral officers waited for voters in most polling units in the capital city, Abuja and across the country.

More than 84 million voters registered to take part in the elections but only 35 percent of that number took part in last month’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

A total of 1,063 candidates are running for the governorship elections in 29 states and 991 members of state houses of assembly as well as the six chairmen and 62 councillors for the area councils in the capital Abuja.

Violence and armed thugs

In Lagos State, the commercial city of Nigeria, some voters also stayed away from Saturday’s exercise after the February 23 polls were marred by violence and armed thugs burnt and snatched ballot boxes.  

“I did not vote because last two Saturdays, the violence in my polling unit scared me away. After voting [thugs] came and burnt our result sheets,” Chinedu Obiora, a business man told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t trust the system to conduct the elections and I couldn’t have risked my life as a result of today’s exercise, I stayed home with my family monitoring on TV,” Obiora said.

Observers advocate transparency in Nigeria’s electoral process

There appeared to be far fewer people taking part in Saturday’s governorship and state assembly polls compared to the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections when electoral officers in some polling areas were overwhelmed with large numbers of voters.

“The turnout of voters in the five polling units we visited today was abysmal, at some polling units, the election officials especially the party agents, were more than the voters,” Chioma Agwuegbo, an Election Observer told Al Jazeera.

“Voters, especially young people, feel betrayed by the electoral commission. They believe that their votes did not count in the elections from February 23rd, and don’t trust the system enough to come out again,” Agwuegbo said.

The main opposition presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar is challenging the outcome of the recently-concluded presidential election which he claims was rigged in favour of Buhari.

“There is low voter turnout and I believe it’s because of the last election which was marred by a lot of irregularities,” Atiku told journalists after voting in his Adamawa home in northeast Nigeria.

Atiku has approached the court to begin the process of auditing the results of the presidential vote which he says were manipulated.

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