1. Tensions rise in Nigeria as Tinubu declared winner in an election widely held to be rigged

By Douglas Burton

 

Bola Tinubu, candidate of the incumbent All Progressives Congress Party, has been named by

Nigeria’s electoral commission the outright winner of the country’s presidential election.

However, the country’s Catholic bishops, among others, have sharply criticized the Independent

Nigerian Election Commission (INEC) for its handling of the vote count and called for the

government to address complaints raised by voters and the other political parties. “The delay in

the electronic transmission of the results of the polling units to the INEC results viewing portal

before their announcement at the collation centers raised suspicion in many minds about the

transparency of the entire process,” read a statement from Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji of

Owerri, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria. “There is, therefore,

palpable tension in the air and agitations not just by some political parties but by a cross –

section of the Nigerian population,” he said. “No matter how long it takes, INEC has to ensure

that it does the right thing now to ensure that the sanctity of the collective will of the

electorate is not violated, so as to restore the confidence of the citizenry in our government

and its institutions,” the archbishop continued. “As the saying goes, it is no use running when

one is on the wrong road.”

Tinubu is a Muslim politician from the Yoruba ethnic tribe representing the party of the current

President, Muhammadu Buhari, who is completing his second term in office and was not

eligible to run again.

 

Voter turnout was only 29%, far lower than the last election in 2019, and video-documented

claims of vote switching and voter intimidation were rife.

 

The field of candidates represented 18 parties, but the key challengers to Tinubu and the All

Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party, were the Peoples Democratic Party, headed by

Atiku Abubakar, a Fulani Muslim, and the Labour Party, headed by Peter Obi, an Igbo Roman

Catholic. Considered a high-stakes election because of Nigeria’s size and influence in West Africa,

observers had expressed hope that a peaceful transfer of power to a civilian government would

bode well for the nation’s war against radical Islamist insurgents.

The massacres of Christian farmers in war-torn Benue State on Election Day, Feb. 25,

underscored the violent situation that Christians in particular face in the predominantly Muslim

country. Fulani terrorists had warned the citizens not to go to the polling stations in the weeks

prior to the election, according to media reports. At least 10 citizens who had voted on

Saturday was murdered in their shelters late at night after voting, Father Remigius Ihyula, a

Catholic priest in Makurdi, said in a text message to CNA.

INEC reported that APC had fulfilled the constitutional requirements of gaining a plurality of

votes in at least 24 states as well as the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. The 70-year-old

Tinubu brushed aside challenges to the integrity of the counting process and commended INEC

for “running a free and fair election. The lapses that did occur were relatively few in number

and were immaterial to the final outcome,” the declared winner said in a prepared statement.

“With each cycle of elections, we steadily perfect this process so vital to our democratic life,”

he said. “Today, Nigeria stands tall as the giant of Africa. It shines even brighter as the

continent’s biggest democracy.”

 

Opposition parties had walked out of the tabulation process Monday charging fraud and

criminal intimidation of their voters. “We party agents are not here to rubber stamp the

electoral fraud cooked up between INEC and the APC,” said Sen. Dino Melaye, spokesman for

the People’s Democratic Party, according to Nigerian media reports. “We have records

[showing] where the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems [scanners that verify voter

authenticity and upload results] were not used and yet the results have been announced,”

Melaye said.

 

Obi’s Labour Party has vowed to fight the result in court. “We will sue for an annulment for

sure. This is the worst election since Nigeria re-entered civilian rule in 1999,” Barrister Yakubu

Bawa, a leader of Obi’s legal team, told CNA. Bawa alleged that the voting results of polling

units in Lagos State were stopped from uploading to the election commission server and that in

Rivers and Delta States the tabulation results were falsified.

This year the election commission attempted to subvert fraud by setting up electronic voter

identification through the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System at the polling units and to

upload the results from the polling units to avoid manipulation of paper ballot tallies. But

fraudsters found a way to work around the system, said Kunle Lawal, executive director of The

Electoral College of Nigeria, an observer group in Lagos. “Some ingenious Nigerian politicians

were able to evade the electronic system due to the failure of the polling units to upload their

results electronically. In many cases the signed and stamped voter tallies at the polling units

differed from the results registered at the INEC collation center,” he told CNA.

 

Election observers in the U.S. expressed cautious disapproval. The International Republican

Institute and the National Democratic Institute faulted the government for disenfranchising

many Nigerians, citing “logistical challenges” that could have been anticipated and avoided.

“Logistical failings caused late openings across the country, creating tensions, and the secrecy

of the ballot was compromised in some polling units given overcrowding,” according to the

blue-ribbon panel of observers representing the Republican and Democrat parties in the United

States. “The combined effect of these problems disenfranchised Nigerian voters in many parts

of the country, although the scope and scale is currently unknown.” There likely will not be

enough evidence to annul the result, according to a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization

that tracks human rights abuses in Nigeria.

“Will the election be annulled? Probably not. Unless Nigerians and the international observers

unite to discover and report the truth, Nigeria’s democracy will be a façade,” Kyle Abts,

executive director of the International Committee on Nigeria, told CNA. “It is becoming clear

that INEC was too lax in their approach to collecting and reporting votes. There are reports of

ballot stuffing or missing ballot boxes along with polling stations never opening,” Abts added.

In the weeks leading up to the election, the nation’s Muslim leaders called upon believers to

back the all-Muslim ticket of Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima, calling it a “political jihad.” All

other leading parties were headed by tickets that balanced a Muslim candidate with a Christian

candidate, an informal tradition encouraged by the nation’s constitution.

 

The voting patterns fell along sectarian lines, according to Nina Shea, a senior scholar at Hudson

Institute. “The Christian vote was split between the PDP and the Labour Party, but the Labour

Party couldn’t attract Muslim votes. I am astonished that Obi’s party didn’t have a strategy to

avoid having the Christian vote split,” Shea said. Muslim-Muslim ticket proclaimed winner of

Nigeria’s presidential election amid protests | Catholic News Agency

 


 

2. Attacks surge in Benue State after elections

 

Armed Fulani herders have renewed attacks and killing of innocent people in parts of Benue State following the February 25, 2023 presidential and National Assembly elections.

The renewed attacks began in Kwande local government area where scores have been hacked to death by the rampaging Fulani terrorists who have vowed to chase the original owners of the lands and take over.

Bearly a day after the elections, the herders invaded Tse Alaa in Udaaya community, Guma LGA around 9pm when everyone was asleep as a result of stress from the polling units and opened fire and killed about eight innocent people before moving to the neighbouring village of Tse Magum, still in Guma where they attacked around 10pm and killed more people.

According to eye-witnesses, the Fulanis have been attacking various villages of Turan specifically, Moon, Mkômon, Mbadura and Yaav district all in Kwande LGA. Also, Jato Aka is now filled with fleeing villagers. The distance from the River where the armed herdsmen often cross to attack is not far from Jato Aka. The same spate of attacks is ongoing in Gwer West local government Area where many have been killed and others are still missing. Communities of the local government have been sacked by the invading attackers. Most of the people have fled to Naka, the head quarters of Gwer West to look for refuge.

The killer herders have laid siege on the area in the last couple of days, with some analysts linking the attacks to the outcome of the recently announced results of the elections. The pastoralists have never hidden their preference for the APC which they believe will protect them if it wins elections in Benue State. The election results have motivated the killers who have become more daring.

 

 

A member of the Benue state Community Volunteer Guards, and six other people, have been killed in an attack by herdsmen on Tse Fela, in Mbabuande Council Ward and Tse Akyegh in Ikaaghev Council Ward of Gwer West Local Government Area. The attackers stormed the villages at around 3pm on Tuesday 28 February, killing villages they encountered. According to a source, “It was more of a coordinated attack because they came from neighbouring Nasarawa state at the same time and attacked the two villages. They came shooting sporadically and anyone that could not escape was killed. They killed the Ward Head of BSCVGs and six others for no reason because we had no previous incidents with them. In fact they were the ones who few weeks back had also attacked our people without any reason. But before this latest indent some people noticed strange movements in the villages and they raised the alarmed which helped most of the people to flee for their lives but those that could not escape quickly ended up being killed.” Chief Adi-Bata, the district head of Ikaaghev, confirmed the killings and said had the alarm been raised slower, more casualties would have been counted. He appealed to security forces, both local and federal, to intensify their area patrols to help curb the rising violence. The chairman of the LGA, Mr. Andrew Ayande, also confirmed the incident, adding that the communities in the surrounds have been deserted. “I am sad because the Fulani’s are on a mission to chase us away from our communities. It is just sad because these attacks are happening repeatedly.” https://www.vanguardngr.com/2023/03/armed-herders-kill-bscvgs-member-six-others-infresh-attack-on-benue-villages/

 


 

3. Cardinal Peter Okpaleke speaks out on future of Nigeria following elections

 

Nigerian cardinal, Peter Ebere Okpaleke, said that the recent elections had a lot at stake, and that the next president would have to deal with the “hydra-headed” challenge of insecurity and violence. The Islamist insurgency in the northeast, ransom fueled kidnappings in the northwest, violence by separatist gunmen in the southeast, and conflict between Fulani herdsmen and farmers in the north all reflect “the progressive failure of the state to secure the life and property of her citizens.” “Nigeria seems to be at the brink. Things have fallen apart at the social, cultural, and political levels. Purposeful leadership is needed to restore trust and confidence in the Nigerian state. There have been religious conflicts in Nigeria dating back decades between the Christians and the Muslims. there has also been a proliferation of firearms due to porous border control,” he said, adding that the Fulani attacks moving southward set them on “a collision course with the agriculturalists of the Middle Belt Area and the who people of the South. The handling of this farmer-herder conflict by the federal government of Nigeria seems to show that the herdsmen, who are mainly of the Fulani extraction, had the tacit support of some people in government. Against this background, the Boko Haram and other terrorist organisations operating in Nigeria appeared to be tools for the achievement of the goal of destabilization and takeover by the Fulani of the territory, Nigeria, from the indigenous peoples. There is so much violence and insecurity in the country. In my opinion, the violence is not directed specifically against priests or the Christians. having said that, it has to be acknowledged too that in some parts of the country, depending on what is stoking the conflict, priests or the Christians often stand in the line of direct attack.” in the last year, 4 Catholic priests were killed and 28 kidnapped, and over 7600 also killed between January 2021 and June 2022. “With a police force that has been stretched thin and seemingly lacking morale, criminals and bandits who kidnap for ransom had a field day,” the cardinal continues. With the recent change in the naira affecting millions, and causing insecurity across the country, “the scarcity of the new currency is causing challenges for the people is an understatement. A lot of people are going through hell. Economic activities have almost ground to a halt.” in his recent Lenten message, the cardinal emphasized the responsibility of voters, particularly the youth, had to consider for themselves in this recent election. “Never have I seen an election in which many Nigerians, especially the youth, are as invested as in the forthcoming one. As we are marked with the ash and reminded that dust we are and to dust we return, may we realize the great privilege God has given us to contribute in shaping history.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253721/nigeria-s-newest-cardinal-presidentialelection-will-either-make-or-break-nigeria

Stay Up-To-Date!