Sunday, April 3, 2011

Nigeria Extends Voting Delay One Week to April 9, Election Commission Says

By Elisha Bala-Gbogbo

Business ExchangeBuzz up!DiggPrint Email .Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, delayed general elections by a week after a last-minute postponement of a parliamentary vote yesterday due to the late arrival of voting materials, the electoral commission said.

Parliamentary elections, which had been rescheduled to start tomorrow, will now take place on April 9, while the presidential vote is set for April 16, Attahiru Jega, head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, said today in Abuja, the capital. The following week, voters will choose the governors and legislatures of Nigeria’s 36 states, he said.

“This postponement gives INEC the opportunity to address the logistical problems observed and to ensure that the electoral materials are distributed in a way that ensures the integrity of the election process,” Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, which is monitoring the electoral process, said by phone today from Abuja.

“People’s confidence to come out and vote may have been shaken by these two postponements,” he said.

After meeting with political parties and civil-society organizations, Jega said, “the commission has found that the overwhelming sentiment is to further reschedule the elections.”

Some voting stations had opened yesterday before the announcement of the delay. Governor Tunde Fashola of Lagos state, which includes the West African nation’s commercial capital, said yesterday, “some people have voted, I voted.”

Elections in 2003 and 2007 were marred by violence, voter intimidation and the stuffing of ballot boxes.

Opposition Parties
The parliamentary vote is for 109 Senate seats and 360 seats in the House of Representatives. The main opposition parties, Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change, aim to cut the majority the People’s Democratic Party won in both houses four years ago by saying it failed to reduce poverty, corruption and violence.

The vote is a prelude to the presidential contest that pits the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, against 18 rivals, including former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and the ex-head of the anti-graft agency, Nuhu Ribadu, who is the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria.

Nigeria is the fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports. Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), Chevron Corp. (CVX) of San Ramon, California, Total SA (FP) of France and Italy’s Eni SpA (ENI) run joint ventures with the state- owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. that pump more than 90 percent of the West African nation’s oil.

Election Violence

More than 50 people have died in election-related violence since July, according to Amnesty International, while sectarian clashes in the north have claimed the lives of at least 200 since Dec. 24. In a March 3 attack, at least 10 people died when explosives were hurled at a rally of the PDP in the town of Suleja.

The concern about sectarian and election-related violence has sparked domestic demand for foreign currency, central bank Governor Lamido Sanusi said in a March 15 interview in Abuja. That has weakened the naira, which reached an 18-month low against the dollar on March 17.

“People want to see a smooth transition, a free and fair election before they bring back the money,” he said.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at

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