Nigeria Electoral Commission tested in Delta gubernatorial election

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Analysts in Nigeria have said the gubernatorial election in the Nigerian state of Delta was a test for the re-branded electoral commission ahead of the main presidential elections coming in April.

Like the civil unrest in Nigeria, the Delta region has long been hit by election rigging, turbulence involving criminal gangs and militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer distribution of oil revenue. These issues created a complex atmosphere for the electoral commission to function.

The recently installed electoral commission faces enormous challenges in putting in order the forthcoming presidential elections in April.

“We know it is a test case,” electoral commission head Attahiru Jega, said in a recent television interview.

The claim comparison comes as arrests were made following attempts to steal ballot boxes at the gubernatorial election in Delta state. Police reportedly received complaints of harassment and interference from a number of opposition members.

An electoral agent from the opposition Democratic People’s Party told reporters in Delta state that he was beaten up by political thugs, while a legal adviser from the same party also alleged he was battered.

“We have deployed 22,600 regular policemen in addition to bomb experts and more than 2,800 riot police. It is the largest contingent ever deployed for a state elections,” Delta state police spokesman Charles Muka was quoted by AFP.

The Delta state election was considered a test for the forthcoming national elections because the unrest and tensions in the Delta state was reflective of the kind of unrest Nigeria has witnessed ahead of its forthcoming national elections.

Prior to the ballots, an election office was burnt down in the Delta state town of Ughelli, and last week twin bomb blasts hit a political rally in the neighboring state of Bayelsa.

The unrest in the Delta region is synonymous to the series of attacks, including bomb blasts in the capital Abuja and the central city of Jos, that has plagued Nigeria lately.

Also the gubernatorial election in Delta is considered significant to the measure of Nigeria’s preparedness for the presidential election in April because it took place amidst political tension in the state.

A court had annulled the result of the 2007 vote citing fraud allegations. A re-run was ordered a few months before the new election.

Security authorities were on high alert as voters went to the polls in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, and officials say that the presence of police in polling stations kept violence outbreaks to a minimal.

“The election has been very calm. No violence recorded anywhere. We had one or two places where there were attempts to snatch ballot boxes. We foiled them and arrests were quickly made.” Muka said.

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