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ELECTION 2015 UPDATE: Thousands call for vote re-run in Nigeria’s Rivers state

The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.
An All Progressives Congress (APC) party supporter holds a sign as others march towards the Independent National Electoral Commission Office in Port Harcourt during a demonstration calling for the cancellation of the presidential election in the Rivers State on March 29, 2015. Thousands of supporters of Nigeria's main opposition party demonstrated in the southern state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities. AFP PHOTO / FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR

An All Progressives Congress (APC) party supporter holds a sign as others march towards the Independent National Electoral Commission Office in Port Harcourt during a demonstration calling for the cancellation of the presidential election in the Rivers State on March 29, 2015. Thousands of supporters of Nigeria’s main opposition party demonstrated in the southern state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities. AFP PHOTO / FLORIAN PLAUCHEUR

Thousands of supporters of Nigeria’s main opposition party on Sunday demonstrated in the oil-rich state of Rivers, calling for the cancellation of elections locally because of alleged irregularities.

The demonstrators from the All Progressives Congress (APC) converged on the local offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the state capital, Port Harcourt.

“We are here to register our protest that there was no election in Rivers state yesterday (Saturday),” Rivers state governorship candidate Dakuku Peterside told the crowd.

Peterside alleged that APC supporters across the southern state were “disenfranchised by INEC, working in connivance with (the) PDP (Peoples Democratic Party)”.

Results sheets, which in Nigerian elections are given at every polling station to both party representatives and the local electoral commission after the count, were not provided, he alleged.

“INEC in collaboration with (the) Peoples Democratic Party hijacked the materials and were filling them in private homes for the PDP,” Peterside claimed.

“Since the results sheets were not available, we did not vote. If there was no voting, there is no way they can declare any result.”

Peterside called for the presidential and parliamentary election to be re-held in Rivers on a new date.

Rivers state in the oil-producing Delta is seen as a key battleground for the presidential election, in which APC candidate Muhammadu Buhari is fighting President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling PDP.

At the last election in 2011, the state was won by the PDP but governor Rotimi Amaechi switched to the APC two years later and there has been bad blood between the two parties ever since.

– ‘Bad losers’ –

Amaechi, who is heading Buhari’s presidential campaign, was among those who refused to vote after being told that results sheets would not be made available.

The supporters shouted anti-INEC slogans and “we must vote” against a heavy police presence.

Local INEC spokeswoman Tonia Nwobi told AFP before the protest: “It is not true that INEC has had any result to favour any party.

“We have received results from only one local government out of 23 (in the state).”

Nwobi’s boss, INEC chairman Attahiru Jega, told a news conference in the capital Abuja he had received a letter from the APC in Rivers calling for the election to be rescheduled in the state.

He promised a “thorough investigation” and for the decision to be communicated to the parties but he added: “We are concerned about what seems to be happening in Rivers state.

“There are many alleged cases of malpractice and we certainly pay a lot of attention to… it and if any of our staff are involved, we will apply appropriate sanctions.”

The Rivers state chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, dismissed the APC’s allegations, saying in a statement that the vote was “credible” and reflected the will of the people.

“Rivers state is a traditional PDP state and even if the elections are conducted a million times, the PDP will win here,” he added, saying the call to reschedule was “the behaviour of bad losers”.