Protests against Nigeria’s election results intensify

Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and second place candidate, greets his supporters during a protest against the recent presidential election results, in Abuja , Nigeria, Monday, March 6, 2023. Thousands of opposition supporters staged a protest Monday against the country’s presidential election results, as calls for a revote intensified. (AP Photo/Gbemiga Olamikan)

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Thousands of Nigerian opposition supporters protested Monday against the country’s presidential election results, as calls for a revote intensified.

Dressed in black and holding signs, the protesters led by second-place candidate, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, marched to the headquarters of Nigeria’s electoral body in the capital, Abuja, and blocked the entrance as they demanded that authorities hold a new election under better conditions that would bring accurate results.

“The provisions of the current electoral law have been completely contravened,” said Abubakar. “This protest is going to continue for a very long time, either every day or every other day.”

At least five political parties are challenging last month’s vote, alleging that delays in uploading results from the country’s 177,000 polling stations to the electoral body’s portal could have allowed vote tampering. They also allege there was voter intimidation and cases where people were barred from voting at all.

Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress won the election with 37% of the votes becoming Nigeria’s first presidential candidate to win with less than half of the total votes.

In Nigeria, an election can be invalidated only if it’s proven that the national electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and acted in ways that could have changed the result. None of Nigeria’s presidential election results has ever been overturned by the country’s Supreme Court.

Some observers have also criticized the conduct of the presidential election. The U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, said the election process failed to meet Nigerians’ expectations after years of improvement in the quality of the elections.

“We thus reiterate our call on (the electoral commission) to address promptly the challenges that can be resolved ahead of the March 11 gubernatorial elections,” she said in a statement Sunday.

A local court on Friday granted both Atiku and third-place finisher Peter Obi permission to inspect the election materials used in the vote as part of their court challenge.

The two opposition parties will in the coming weeks gather evidence to build their cases in separate applications disputing the election results, a process that took nearly seven months in 2019 when the courts rejected a similar challenge to the results.

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