Nigeria vote ‘threatened by violence’: observers
Agence France Presse

LAGOS — A recent upsurge in pre-vote violence in Nigeria poses a challenge to Nigeria’s April elections, a team of foreign election observers said on Friday.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, holds presidential elections on April 9, a week after legislative polls on April 2, while governorship and state assembly polls will be on April 16.

“The manipulation of youth to perpetrate violence on behalf of political actors continues to be a significant threat to the integrity of the electoral process,” the US-based International Republican Institute (IRI) said in a statement following a visit to Nigeria.

“For the benefit of the April elections, as well as the long term health of Nigerian democracy, it is recommended that those who engage in election-related violence in 2011 be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” it said.

“There should be no tolerance for those who engage in violence,” it added.

A recent surge in violence, including bombings, political attacks and sectarian clashes, have left dozens dead in the country.

On Thursady, a blast near the venue of a ruling party election rally in central Nigeria killed three people and injured 28 others.

The April vote is expected to test Nigeria’s ability to organise a credible vote after a series of deeply flawed polls in the past.

The IRI however noted with satisfaction the confidence of Nigerians in the integrity of chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commmission (INEC) Attahiru Jega, a former don, to organise credible polls next month.

“In every one of its (IRI) meetings, the delegation heard praise for the INEC chairman. It is clear that the Nigerian people have confidence in chairman Jega’s commitment to transparent, free and fair elections,” said the IRI delegation, led by former Ghana’s president John Kufuor.

“However, it is also critical that this confidence in the chairman’s integrity extends to the entire INEC structure”.

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