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Saturday, February 27, 1999 Published at 15:49 GMT

World: Africa

Vote-rigging reported in some areas

In some areas voting has not been as enthusiastic as this

By Elizabeth Blunt in Port Harcourt

Reports from the north and west of Nigeria suggest an enthusiastic response to the presidential election but in parts of the oil-rich Niger Delta there has been less enthusiasm, and evidence of attempts to rig the results in some areas.

Elizabeth Blunt: "Impressions of voting depended on the area"
It is clear that in some parts of Nigeria the bad old traditions of election-rigging still flourish, despite all the urgings of both the Nigerian Government and the international community.

At polling stations in the farming community of Emuoha, the ballot boxes were full before midday.

At some stations we were assured that there had been a 100% turnout, that every single registered voter had turned up and cast their vote.

But then people came forward to show us their names on the list, saying that they had not voted but their votes had been cast for them.

Voting started late

One young man said that his mother had been incapacitated for more than two months and not able to leave her house and yet she was recorded as having cast her vote.

Nigeria elections
In this area, we saw few party agents and no election monitors. It is impossible to say how widespread this kind of manipulation is. Certainly such blatant rigging is far more likely in the countryside than the towns.

It is also easier in places where the number of genuine votes cast is low, as it has been in these elections in the Niger Delta - an area which seems to have lost faith in the willingness of any government to address its problems.

In the city of Port Harcourt and surrounding areas, voting started late and the turnout seems unlikely to exceed 10%, with little sign of the political enthusiasm reported in other parts of the country.

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