Nigerians start voting today against the backdrop of tightening security after a bomb blast yesterday, Friday.
An explosion at an Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Suleija, Niger State, killed 25 people, mostly National Youth Service Corps members. There has been no claim of responsibility.
The attack, which left an as yet unknown number of other victims seriously injured, more than doubles the number who have died from electoral violence to more than 40 people.
INEC cancelled polling in Suleija. INEC chief Prof Attahiru Jega said: “We condemn this cowardly and dastardly action which seems designed to instill fear in Nigerians and paralyze their aspirations for peaceful and credible elections.”
President Jonathan has ordered security to be stepped up at INEC offices nationwide. This joins an already existing ban on movement being enforced by police to, “enable law enforcement agents [to] monitor the activities of miscreants, thugs, and other criminal elements”.
Police have been criticised after the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim, issued a directive that Nigerians should not take pictures with phones and cameras during polling – seen as a key aspect of election monitoring, being promoted by civil society organisations, as Think Africa Press has analysed.
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyina said the directive should be ignored.
“If they do not go with it to polling booths, how will they monitor electoral misconducts? People should ignore it because it is contrary to electoral act,” he said.
“Police always confuse Nigerians just to suit their paymasters.”
After further postponements, elections will not take place today in 15 senatorial districts and 48 federal constituencies where ballot papers had been used in the aborted election last week or had printing flaws. Violence also accompanied last week’s initial polling, with three people killed in Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa, in the Niger Delta region, villages and a police station attacked in Bauchi, and a member of parliament kidnapped in Rivers State.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) currently holds more than three-quarters of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives and the 109 seats in the Senate. It is thought that the party is unlikely to gain the seats needed to maintain its clear majorities as it faces stiff challenges from the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the northwest of the country, and from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the southwest.