Soldiers Soldiers and policemen stand at the gate of the state headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on March 10, 2019. – Fears has gripped residents of oil-rich Port Harcourt city in Niger delta region as state headquarters of Independent National Electoral Commission has been condoned off by dozens of fierce looking soldiers, anti-riots policemen and other complementary security agents who are jointly patrolling the city ahead of the much awaited results of the just concluded governorship and state assembly elections.
International observers expressed concern over the army action in the capital of southern Rivers State, where AFP reporters at the scene said soldiers blocked roads around the building, sparking a standoff with police who initially resisted with teargas but ultimately backed down.
The British High Commission in Abuja said it was monitoring the situation closely and urged authorities to allow Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) staff “to do their job in safety, without intimidation”. “Extremely concerned by reports, including from @UKinnigeria observers, of military interference in the election process in Rivers State,” the commission said on Twitter.
Counting is on going after elections on Saturday for governors in 29 of Nigeria’s 36 states, all state assemblies and administrative councils in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja and the INEC is expected to announce the results in the coming days. It is the second time in a fortnight that the country has gone to the polls after presidential elections in February that saw President Muhammadu Buhari clinch a second term in office.
While voting was largely peaceful, incidents of violence marred the poll, with reports of abductions and killings as well as concerns over vote buying and a strong military presence. Police on Sunday said three INEC staff were kidnapped in northern Katsina state in an ambush that left a policeman dead during voting on Saturday. And on Saturday authorities said a local election observer in southeastern Enugu state was killed by a stray bullet as police attempted to disperse demonstrators.
Regional elections are fiercely contested in Nigeria, where governors are powerful and influential figures, controlling state finances and responsible for key areas from education to health. Most domestic and international observers said last month’s presidential vote was credible, despite well-documented problems. But tensions remain high as the beaten Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenges the result in court.
Three people were killed in Rivers on Friday, according to the transport minister, following clashes between APC and PDP supporters.