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Local elections in Nigeria have begun in the shadow of a contested national election

Millions of Nigerians returned to the polls as Africa’s most populous country held gubernatorial elections amid tensions after last month. Disputed presidential vote.

New governors were chosen for 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states on Saturday as the opposition continues to reject a victory for President-elect Paula Tinubu of the West African country’s ruling party.

Africa’s most populous country elects hundreds of legislators and governors to state assemblies, in a particularly competitive contest in the country’s economic nerve center, Lagos.

Rulers are in powerful positions in Nigeria, with some controlling state budgets larger than those of many African countries.

Polling units were scheduled to open from 8:30 a.m. (07:30 GMT) and close at 2:30 p.m. (13:30 GMT) although delays are frequent and voters must remain in line before closing time. able to vote.

High security measures

On Friday, armed security forces were seen patrolling the streets across the states where the elections were to be held.

“Ahead of the elections, the security situation across the country appears tense, with reports of violence, kidnappings and assassinations reported in several states,” the Operations Room, a coalition of civil society organizations, said in a statement.

The presidential election was mostly peaceful, observers said, but there are still fears of attacks in many parts of Nigeria where armed groups often carry out violent killings, such as in the northwest and southeast.

At a security meeting in the Nigerian capital this week, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno said security forces are deployed in all violence hotspots and officials do not expect any major security threat.

“We must allow everyone to exercise their basic rights as citizens of this country. Whoever wishes to undermine this process should think again,” Monguno said.

Voters wait to vote at a polling station for governor and House of Representatives candidates during the local elections, in Lagos [Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP]

Voter indifference

Despite being Africa’s largest economy and one of its largest oil producers, development in Nigeria has been stifled by endemic corruption and bad governance, which in many cases includes rulers.

The Nigerian Constitution gives rulers enormous powers, yet they are immune from any form of prosecution throughout their four-year term with a two-term limit.

Despite the governors’ powers, polls have shown that many in the West African country do not have a high level of interest in the election and performance of governors, a trend that analysts said is affecting the level of accountability across the states.

“Even if we get the right to the president, everything else is against us – the people in the National Assembly, the governors, the structural problems with regard to our constitution,” said Aisha Usuri, director of the Open Society Foundations.

As the electoral materials arrived in Ijayi, in Agbado district, about 50 voters were already forming a queue, hours before polling was due to start.

One of them was Fosat Balogun, a 46-year-old merchant who was eager to cast his ballot.

“I have been here since 6 am (05:00 GMT) to vote for the candidates of my choice. We need new blood in Lagos. The old politicians have failed us.”

Three political parties have come out on top among the 18 gubernatorial candidates in the 28 states. Despite a record 87.2 million registered voters, analysts fear a repeat of the low turnout in last month’s presidential election, which recorded a voter turnout of 26.7 percent. , which is the lowest in Nigeria’s history.

In the capital, Abuja, Kate Imadow, 26, was among the many who were unable to vote in the presidential election despite waiting all day and into the night to cast her ballot. She said that made her less interested in traveling to her hometown of Cross River State to vote for the next governor.

“What is the need to travel when I can’t vote here during the presidential election?” Emad asked, echoing the frustration of so many others.

The Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria has promised to tackle the challenges that emerged in last month’s elections, such as Delay in voting and uploading resultsThis is what the opposition parties claimed caused the disenfranchisement of voters and the manipulation of the results.

“We must work harder to overcome the challenges we faced in the last elections (as) nothing else will be accepted for Nigerians,” Mahmoud Yakubu, the Electoral College Chairperson, told officials in Abuja.

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