Voters in Nigeria's presidential election Saturday faced an "undue burden" because of "serious operational shortcomings," European Union observers said on Monday February 25.
Saturday's elections were mostly peaceful as tens of millions of Nigerians cast their votes in Africa's largest democratic exercise, the observers said. But voting was beset by violence in pockets of the country, and there were some reports of ballot boxes being snatched and voting papers set alight.
At least 39 people were killed in several states across Nigeria in election-related violence over the weekend, civil society groups reported.
As of Tuesday February 26, the outcome of the elections remain in doubt as votes are still being counted and results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The pace has been slow, with less than ten states having their results disclosed before Tuesday.
Most of the deaths occurred in Rivers State, where no less than seven people were killed in clashes between the Nigerian army and armed men, according to the Situation Room, a network of more than 70 civil societies, citing data from analysis firm SBM intelligence.
US observers from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (IRI/NDI) said although the deaths were tragic, they should be placed in the broader context.
"We don't want to overemphasise the deaths," said the IRI's John Tomaszewski. "We understand the contextual relationship. Violence happens every day here. It's not just on Election Day."
The Nigerian police reported that they had arrested 128 people for election-related offenses ranging from homicide to vote buying and snatching of ballot boxes. Police also recovered 38 weapons and a cache of explosives during the arrests.
On Sunday, the Nigerian army said its troops killed six people after unknown shooters opened fire on its forces in a remote village in Rivers State. The army added that a high-ranking military officer died in the exchange.
Nigeria police spokesman, Frank Mba, disclosed that police were still gathering casualty figures from across the country.
"We know people died as a result of violence during the polls in some states, but we want to be scientific about the casualty figures before we share it," Mba said.
Maria Arena, the EU's chief observer and member of the European Parliament, told reporters in Abuja that voting was delayed for several hours in some polling centers and there were some problems with electronic voting machines.
The snail pace at which results are trickling in is a cause for concern, particularly in view of the fact that Senegal, neighbours to Nigeria, conducted their own general elections on Sunday October 24 and had made all relevant announcements in about 24 hours. It could be argued that Senegal is smaller and homogenous in nature, but in truth, the respective electoral conditions have more to do with efficiency of systems than with size. Even with expectations of advancement in technology, Nigeria is still operating an analogue system of compilations and data collation, sticking to the same formula employed in 2015, still struggling with malfunctioning card readers. Four years should be enough time to effect improvements, but here we are.
So we wait, besieged by permutations on Twitter, collation figures on Facebook which cry for verification, and Whatsapp broadcast messages bearing fake results. Wherever the pendulum swings, one thing is for sure, and that is the need for an upgrade on our method of conducting elections in these parts.
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