Nigeria: the people decide; Mercy Eze on the surprises that came with the moment of decision on 21 April.

Author:Eze, Mercy
Position:Feature - Independent National Electoral Commission
 
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Over 60 million registered voters in Nigeria headed for the polls in mid-April to elect their new leaders at all levels of government--local, state, gubernatorial, parliamentary and presidential.

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There was growing concern about the mistrust between the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and a cross section of observer missions in the country. INEC had earlier called on the European Union and its co-donors to withhold funding to "suspicious NGOs and other observer groups", describing their activities as questionable.

Two British firms, Gilat and Witness, were contracted by INEC to manage the transmission of results from the states to INEC headquarters in Abuja.

The deal covered all the elections. Amidst criticisms that money was being wasted on Gilat and Witness, INEC insisted that the UK firms were "partners to reckon with", given their competence and international experience.

Over 200 foreign and 53 domestic observers monitored the elections, drawn from the African Union, Ecowas, International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES), USAID, EU, USA and others from Asia. Conspicuously absent was the United Nations whose spokesman said the Nigerian government did not request observers from the UN.

There were skirmishes over alleged irregularities. An acute delay in the delivery of 120,000 ballot boxes from South Africa did not help matters.

And just when voters were coming to terms with the INEC chairman Prof. Maurice Iwu's statement that the election would be delayed for hours, news broke that the Navy helicopter conveying the ballot papers had crashed, killing the three-member crew on board.

As a result, many of the 120,000 polling stations failed to open for hours and voting was extended in many places beyond the official closing time. There were a...

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