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US, UK fear possible interference in Nigeria vote count

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his British counterpart Philip Hammond Monday voiced fears over possible political interference in Nigeria’s vote count, as the country awaited the results of weekend elections.

“We have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process — where the votes are finally counted — may be subject to deliberate political interference,” the two diplomats said in a joint statement.

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission flatly rejected that.

“There is absolutely no basis for that at all,” commission spokesman Kayode Idowu told AFP.

“There is no interference at all. We are about to start the collation process. We have no evidence of political interference,” he added.

Britain and the United States meanwhile welcomed “the largely peaceful vote” after it was pushed into a second day Sunday due to failures in new technology designed to read biometric identity cards. The cards were introduced to combat electoral fraud.

But Kerry and Hammond warned that any attempt at fraud “would contravene the letter and spirit of the Abuja accord, to which both major parties committed themselves.”

They added that their governments “would be very concerned by any attempts to undermine the independence” of the electoral commission.

Nigeria’s presidential election pitting President Goodluck Jonathan against former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is the closest in Nigeria’s history, and first to present a credible opposition challenge.

The vote is being closely watched amid fears of a repeat of the post-electoral violence of the last presidential poll four years ago.

Some 1,000 people were killed after Jonathan beat Buhari to the presidency in 2011, when the opposition alleged widespread rigging.

International election observers have given broadly positive reactions to the conduct of the weekend’s vote, despite late delivery of election materials and technical glitches with new voter authentication devices.

But Nigeria’s Transition Monitoring Group, which had observers across the country, said: “These issues did not systematically disadvantage any candidate or party.”

Santiago Fisas, head of the European Union election observer mission, also told reporters “there is not evidence of a systematic subversion of the voting process so far.”

But he stressed that “collation is the most critical problem… We are watching this.”


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