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Nigeria: Low turn-out, violence mark governorship elections but ECOWAS observers disagree

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In Nigeria, the 2023 gubernatorial elections were on Saturday held in 31 states out of Nigerian 36 sub-national units called states. The election included choosing legislatures for the state assembly.

There were reports of low voter turnout nationwide and high levels of voter impression and intimidation in the opposition stronghold. Our correspondent who covered polling units in Alimosho Local Government, Nigeria’s largest local government in the country’s commercial capital, Lagos, observed clusters of non-state actors in branded jackets tagged “TEAM LAGOS SECURITY” walking around voting centres with chants of intimidation and threats of violence.

The ruling APC’s incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who has been in the Lagos state government for the past two decades, faced a strong challenge from Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, an architecture and political activist.

A citizen journalist, Gbenga Faith who attempted to take pictures of the threatening mob was harassed and had his phone seized and forcefully made to delete the pictures.

There are also various videos online of thugs moving around while in some cases voters gearing up to restrain potential attackers.

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The incidences of disruption led to the postponement of elections at some polling centres like the VGC polling unit in Lekki, an eyebrow area in Eti-Osa local government in Lagos.

Meanwhile, officials of the electoral commission, INEC have begun counting elections amid reports of scattered violence and voter intimidation. No official results have been announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).

Recall that INEC postponed the governorship and state legislature elections which were initially scheduled to hold on March 11 by one week. Beyond Lagos, in Imo state, southeastern Nigeria, INEC said violence occurred such that security forces rescued 19 electoral officials who had been abducted by thugs, but election materials were lost.

The commission in a statement noted, “while the commission remains grateful to the security operatives, it condemns such acts of thuggery, intimidation, and disenfranchisement of voters.”

There is a new political wave traceable to the presidential candidacy of dark-horse, Peter Obi of the Labour Party who appears anti-establishment and an appealing candidate to the demography of young voters. Obi came third at the national polls in the February 25th elections but his popularity has influenced victories for less popular candidates of the Labour Party at different levels across the country.

Meanwhile, regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States in a statement expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the elections.

“The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission has been monitoring the process, which has been peaceful generally with all the stakeholders present (INEC officials, party agents, and voters) expressing satisfaction at the process,” the statement reads in part.

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South Africa: Parliament reelects Cyril Ramaphosa as president

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President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Julius Malema, the opposition Economic Freedom Fighter, was also put forward for the nation’s presidency, necessitating a vote in parliament to determine the winner.

With a majority of votes in the National Assembly, Chief Justice Ramaphosa was proclaimed president. Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party, received 44 votes, while Ramaphosa received 283.

The Democratic Alliance party said earlier in the day that it would support Ramaphosa in the election as part of a deal to establish a unity government with the African National Congress.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has been re-elected for a second term. He was nominated for re-election on Friday by a member of his African National Congress (ANC) party during the first sitting of parliament following last month’s election.

Out of the 400 seats in the recently elected National Assembly, 246 are held by the ANC and DA.

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Niamey court revokes immunity of overthrown Nigerien president

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The State Court of Niamey has revoked the immunity of Niger’s deposed President, Mohamed Bazoum, signalling the start of criminal proceedings against him by the junta, according to a statement from his attorneys on Friday.

In July of last year, a military coup overthrew Bazoum. Since then, he and his spouse have remained in custody despite numerous requests for his release from Western nations and the ECOWAS regional political and economic grouping.

 

Colonel Amadou Abdramane, the junta’s spokesperson, stated on state television in August that the military government had “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason and for undermining the internal and external security of Niger before competent national and international authorities.”

In a statement, one of his attorneys, Moussa Coulibaly, claimed that the court’s ruling cleared the path for Bazoum to face charges of treason and conspiracy to compromise state security.

The court proceedings “violated (ed) the absolute rights of the defence: we were not authorised to meet our client and the court refused to hear our arguments,” he added.

It was not immediately able to get in contact with the Niger government for a response. Because of Bazoum’s interactions with foreign heads of state and international organizations, the junta declared last year that it would bring high treason charges against him.

Following 2020, there have been eight coups in West and Central Africa that have brought the military government to power. Calls for Bazoum’s reinstatement have gone unanswered, including by the ECOWAS Court of Justice, which declared last year that his arrest was unjustified.

According to Bazoum’s attorneys, he and his spouse had never appeared before a magistrate. Lawyers said that since October, when their phone line at the White House was taken away, they have been cut off from the outside world and are only permitted to have visitors from their doctor.

Mohamed Bazoum Salem, the 23-year-old son of the deposed president, was given provisional parole from house imprisonment by the Niger military tribunal in January.

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