Irregularities and Violence Mar Nigerian Elections
The stakes are high: this election could see Nigeria's first fully democratic transition of power.
Police inspector general Sunday Ehindero told state television that
a preliminary tally showed 21 dead, including an unspecified number of
police, and 218 arrests.
Nigeria's private daily newspapers reported much higher death tolls.
With initial election results expected later on Sunday, Ehindero
called for calm and said losers should follow due process and "eschew
"Elections are by and large a competition for power. Some parties
are bound to win and some parties are bound to lose," he said. "The
losers should be gallant in defeat."
The Vanguard newspaper said 52 people died on Saturday as voters
chose their state lawmakers and governors in a test of the electoral
system ahead of crucial April 21 presidential elections.
ThisDay newspaper reported at least 41 people had died in the vast
nation of 140-million, and presented a list detailing violence from the
country's 36 states. Punch newspaper reported 46 dead. All are the
papers are private dailies with large numbers of staff across the
Election-day violence "was low compared with statistical estimates", Ehindero said. "By and large, I think it is very good."
The people have spoken: they're going to vote even if it takes all night. Violence, theft, and mismanagement have crippled these elections, but citizens across Nigeria are not giving up. Once the dust settles, the next step is vetting the results as legitimate. One step at a time.
State elections in Nigeria have been marred by late opening of polling stations, missing ballot papers and in some areas violence and intimidation.
Voting was extended way past the deadline with officials saying people could vote "no matter how late".
The polls are a key test ahead of next weekend's presidential elections.
President Olusegun Obasanjo said he thought polling had gone relatively well but the opposition said there were widespread irregularities and fraud.
The outcome of Saturday's election for governors and state legislatures is as important to many Nigerians as the presidential poll.
Cracked window of a truck carrying election material, that was shot at by assailants seen on arrival in Lagos from Abuja
In pics: Nigerian state polls
State governors can be extremely powerful, controlling budgets of around $1bn, especially in oil-rich states.
The poll was being seen as an important indicator of how free and fair the presidential polls will be.
Nigerians lined up in the sun for hours to cast their ballots, with many having to put up with the late arrival of election officials, inadequate voting materials, and in some cases intimidation by youths supporting one party or another.
President Obasanjo had said that fraud or violence would not be tolerated.
But in Port Harcourt - the largest city in the oil producing Niger Delta - the BBC's Alex Last said there was genuine fear of violence and vote rigging.
Our correspondent was at one polling station that had only been open for a few minutes when a gang of young men on motorcycles stormed it and made off with the ballot papers and ballot box.