The Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) in Nigeria has suspended the announcement of the results of a re-run election held in the oil-rich Rivers state on 19 March following widespread violence that left at least four people dead. People headed to the polls to vote for seats in the national and the Rivers state House of Assembly after 2015's election was nullified.
Inec said some of its members were killed and kidnapped by masked gunmen and violence prompted the commission to suspend vote counting in eight local government areas. "There were reports of numerous attacks resulting in fatalities, kidnappings, ballot snatching, diversion of officials and materials, amongst others," the commission said in a statement.
"Several permanent and ad hoc staff engaged have been attacked, again resulting in fatalities, while some have been forcibly abducted and taken to presently unknown destinations. Under such difficult circumstance, the Returning Officers were only able to collate and declare results in one Federal and nine State constituencies."
According to preliminary and partial results, the PDP consolidated its control in eight constituencies while the APC won one state constituency seat. Meanwhile, non-governmental organisation New Initiative for Credible Leadership called for the cancellation of the election arguing it failed to comply with international standards.
The volatile Rivers state has been at the epicentre of political violence between the two main parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC).
2015 election nullified
The re-run election came months after a court nullified the results of last year's polls that saw Governor Nyesom Wike of the PDP emerging as a winner.
Shortly after, Dakuku Peterside of the APC filed a lawsuit at a court in the capital Abuja against the election claiming it was marred by malpractices and non-compliance. In October 2015, the court ordered the River State governorship election be nullified and new polls be held.
Amid renewed violence erupted in the run-up to the new election, Peterside – who is also the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) – reportedly escaped an assassination attempt on 19 March.
Kenneth Kobani, PDP member and secretary to the Rivers State government, was arrested and subsequently released by the Nigerian army for allegedly stalling the distribution of electoral materials. Upon release, Kobani accused the army of taking side with the APC.
The Rivers government also accused the military of colluding with the APC in the state to hijack election materials. Both the APC and the military denied the allegations.
State of emergency
At least 150 people have been killed in politically-related violence in Rivers in latest months.
The federal government has been increasingly urged to declare a state of emergency in the state. Earlier in March, Abayomi Adesanya of the APC chapter in Ondo state, claimed the level of violence in Rivers was alarming.
"The rate at which innocent people are being killed and burnt alive in the name of politics is saddening, barbaric and worrisome" he said. "To prevent the crisis from escalating and degenerating into further chaos, we passionately call on President Muhammadu Buhari to use the constitutional powers vested in him as the President to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State for peace to return."
In a statement on Twitter, the PDP alleged Buhari held an emergency meeting over violence in Rivers. Buhari, however, has not yet made any comment regarding the violence.