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Cablegate: Nigeria: Kogi by-Election Sees Little Improvement

VZCZCXRO7248
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #0686/01 1051808
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141808Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2588
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS 9074
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUZEJAA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 000686

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W, INR/AA
DEPT. OF ENERGY FOR GEORGE PERSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: KOGI BY-ELECTION SEES LITTLE IMPROVEMENT

REF: A. ABUJA 485
B. ABUJA 253

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The March 29 Kogi State gubernatorial
by-election was better organized than the April 2007 general
elections, but was still plagued by problems including
missing voting materials, late opening of polling stations,
underage voting, poorly organized voter registers, and some
violence. Perhaps because of fear of violence or simple
voter apathy, voter turnout appeared low (Mission and other
observers estimated no more than 15%); yet the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a turnout of
more than 50%. The Kogi by-election serves as a clear
reminder that to date no electoral reforms have been
implemented since the highly flawed April 2007 polls. In the
end, Ibrahim Idris (Peoples Democratic Party - PDP), whose
April 2007 election had been annulled by the courts (ref B),
was once again declared the winner by INEC. His opponent,
Prince Abubakar Audu (All Nigeria Peoples Party - ANPP), who
also had the backing of the Action Congress, immediately
declared that he would once again contest the results in the
courts. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Emboffs observed the March 29 gubernatorial
by-election in Kogi State, visiting five Local Government
Areas (LGAs), and observing 30 functioning polling stations.
Approximately another 30 we observed never opened or received
voting materials. The polling units that did open could be
characterized as generally well-organized with a process that
appeared uniform. At each functioning station, we also
observed sufficient amounts of materials, serialized ballots,
a voter register, the marking of thumbs, thumb-printing of
ballots, and a tally sheet for recording results. Despite
the improved order at polling stations, we also observed many
problems, including underage voters, non-alphabetized and
incomplete voter registers without photos, and individuals
voting without proof of registration. When queried, INEC
officials at units in Okene and Adavi LGAs said they had
turned away as many as 200 voters due to lack of proof of
registration. Although, there were privacy screens set up to
give the illusion of secrecy, police officers hovered over
voters at several polling stations, making sure they were
"doing it right."

3. (U) Universally, turnout was low, particularly in the
Okene and Adavi LGAs, where it was less than 10%. In many
stations, only 20-30 people had voted by 1400hrs and in some
places there was no one in line to vote after that time. One
compilation center we observed in Adavi had 20 boxes lined up
by 1330hrs. In the polls observed in the eastern portion of
the state, turnout appeared slightly higher at 15 percent.
In the Eastern District, we observed lines of about 50-100
people still voting at 1600hrs due to late opening of the
polls. At one station with over 1,000 voters registered,
they said they would remain open until everyone had voted.
By the end of the day, we did not observe any station that
had more than 200 votes cast, yet INEC's results suggest that
there was 54 percent voter turnout.

4. (U) A majority of the polling stations we observed opened
late (some as late as noon) due to problems with the
distribution of materials and late arrival of INEC officials.
INEC representatives said that they were being bused to
their stations, so in many cases it took a long time to
travel to all the polling stations. Additionally, numerous
polling stations never received voting materials or saw an
INEC official arrive. Nine of eleven wards, consisting of 22
polling stations, in the Okene LGA never received materials.
(NOTE: Senator Otaru Ohize, representing the Kogi Central
District, ultimately announced the cancellation of the
elections in Okene as a result of alleged violence. END
NOTE.) Several wards in Ajaokuta and Dekina also did not
receive materials and in Anyigba LGA, we were unable to find
any polling stations or signs of people attempting to queue.
Bystanders we questioned said that there had been no sign of
polling all day.

5. (U) Although there were media reports of violence in
Okene, we did not witness any incidents at any of the
stations visited. A domestic observer, partnered with the
U.S. National Democratic Institute (NDI), however, said that

ABUJA 00000686 002 OF 002


he witnessed violence in Okene when a man tried to move a
ballot box. The crowd chased the man, creating chaos that
led the Police to fire their guns and use tear gas to
disperse the crowd. At the first polling station we visited
in the Ojono ward of the Lokoja LGA, we encountered ANPP
supporters attempting to take the ballot box to another
location alleging fears that the PDP stronghold in the area
would "steal the election again." As the crowd argued and
grew angrier, we departed the area.

6. (U) Despite the low turnout observed, INEC announced that
54% of the 1,365,641 registered voters cast ballots during
the by-election. INEC credited Idris with 74% of the votes
and Audu with 25%. Audu only won in two LGAs, while Idris
won in 18 and one LGA (Okene) was canceled all together.
Other parties, such as the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP),
Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), All Progressive Grand
Alliance (APGA), and the Progressive Action Congress (PAC),
each received between 500 and 1500 votes total accounting for
only 1% of the voters according to INEC. After the results
were announced, Audu announced that he would be returning to
the election tribunal, alleging illegal thumb-printing and
changing of results affected the outcome.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Although there were noticeable improvements
in the overall organization of the Kogi by-election, in many
ways much remained the same as in April 2007. Despite our
observations of a 10-15% turnout (at those polling stations
that even opened), INEC's announced results reflect 54% of
the registered voters in the state, suggesting an inflation
in numbers at some point in the compilation process. It was
difficult to determine if the low turnout was due to apathy,
fear, or both; but the discrepancy between the observed
turnout and that announced by INEC was quite clear and
underscores the fact that to date no reforms have been
carried out since the flawed April 2007 elections. Audu
again announced his intentions to contest the results in
court. Idris' reinstatement as governor also raises the
question of his term's length and whether the clock for his
tenure now starts over. If this sets a precedent, Nigeria
could begin to experience staggered elections in future
(heretofore, state and federal elections have been conducted
across the country on two consecutive Saturdays). It is
unclear what impact this might have on electoral reform. END
COMMENT.
SANDERS

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